Friday, December 1, 2017

Magic: The Commander Player's Toolkit




If you are new to Magic, or even new to the more casual format of Commander, it can be a little daunting picking which cards will work well in your particular deck.

Fortunately, Commander does have some pretty solid staples which will fit in, no matter who your choice of Commander is.

With this in mind, I have picked the list below as a good starting point for any Commander deck. These are all colorless and will either help you fixing mana, improving early game board state or just generally being annoying to your friends. The best part is that these are fairly cheap, although not always the easiest to come by due to their key place in Commander decks.

My advice is, if you see these in your buddy's trade file, grab them and ferret them away for future decks. Or let me know you have them!

Sol Ring

A one-cost artifact that you can immediately tap for two colorless mana is a bit crazy. If you are able to get this down on your first turn, it sets you up nicely for a four-cost drop in turn two. Which is, basically, insane in this format.

This is why pretty much all the pre-constructed commander decks will have one of these. It helps you and it will upset your buddies.

Lightning Greaves

Something you can equip for free and move around, keeping your most important guy protected, is always a good idea. No spells that say "target" will be able to touch him.

This is useful if you have a Commander that has both active and passive abilities, but you don't need to target with anything else.

It also sticks around if the creature it is equipped to dies, ready to help you out again.

Swiftfoot Boots

So you dropped a big, bad boy and you want to start hurting your opponents right away? Swiftfoot boots allows for just that, as well as protection from targeted removal.

Sure, you have to pay to equip it, but the payoff is a little better with having a creature on the battlefield ready to bring some pain.

Command Tower

This is a pointless card for mono-color decks, but should be standard with just about any other deck than runs two or more colors.

It will fix your mana issues and is free to use, without getting any pain for tapping it for a color. Good luck finding them, though, as they are scarcer than an honest politician.

Evolving Wilds

A waste for a mono-colored deck, but dead useful if you are screwed for mana of a particular color. Especially if you are one of those players who runs all five colors.

Can also be used with or replaced by Terramoprhic Expanse, which is literally the same card.

Reliquary Tower

It's a land that taps for one colorless and gives you an unlimited hand size. What's not to love?

It's also quite annoying for your opponents because it's not often they will have land-destruction and, if they do, they usually overlook the Tower.

Spellbook

A free artifact that gives you an unlimted handsize.

Perfect to back up Reliquary Tower and will also fly under the radar of most of your opponents.

Temple of the False God

A land that taps for two colorless mana once you control 5 or more lands, this is perfect for mid-game.

It will help you get your big boys out onto the field and also help you recover if you miss a land drop.

Solemn Simulacrum

If your deck allows you to constantly sacrifice creatures and retrieve them from the graveyard, this card is an obvious choice.

He lets you fetch a land when he enters the battlefield and lets you draw a card when he dies.

Chromatic Lantern

If your deck runs three or more colors, this is a great addition to help with mana fixing.

It allows any land you control to tap for any mana and it also has that same ability.

Commander's Sphere

A three cost artifact that taps for any color of your commander's colour identity. Basically, acts as the poor man's Command Tower.

Skullclamp

If you can produce tokens you are not really attached to, running Skullclamp lets you kill them off to draw two cards. If you don't have worthy tributes out on the battlefield, it can just sit there until you need the card draw.

Exotic Orchard

This useful land taps for any colour mana that lands your opponents control can produce.

I am sure you see the theme by now. Mana can be problematic in Commander and there are a lot of ways to help ease your woes.

Darksteel Ingot

This also helps you with mana issues and is indestructible. Plus, if someone wipes out your lands, this will help keep you in the game.

Gilded Lotus

Helping you with mana rap, this is an artifact that taps for three of any colour mana.

Nevinyrral's Disc

An artifact that comes into play tapped, but tap it and pay one and you basically reset the board by wiping all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments.

Your opponents will be either scrambling to get rid of it or waiting for the inevitable destruction.


And there you have it! I hope you find this little guide useful in kitting our your decks.



Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Satellite by Nick Lake


Title: Satellite
Author: Nick Lake
Publisher: PanMacmillan (November 2017)

A teenage boy born in space makes his first trip to Earth. 
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. 
Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. 
Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight. 
But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma? Because while the planet may be home to billions of people, living there is more treacherous than Leo and his friends could ever have imagined, and their very survival will mean defying impossible odds.
I was blessed with an advanced review copy of Satellite by the wonderful PanMacmillan SA. Thank you again for being so supportive of bloggers locally!

Satellite would have been an amazing read, but I am just one of those readers who gets super irritated by sms-speak. The whole novel is told in this way with ''u'' for "you" and the like. I honestly didn't see the point of this nor did I feel it added any value to the reading experience. If you are someone that would be irritated by this style of writing, perhaps read a sample first before purchasing the book.

The book did have some good points, though!

  • Leo is struggling with his sexuality, which adds to his character and the story.
  • The science felt pretty solid and I enjoyed reading about life in space, especially the struggle encountered with zero gravity.
  • Leo himself is a good, solid character. His growth in the novel is interesting to follow.
  • There is a lot of tension in the novel, and action sequences which would make for a great film.
  • It deals with relationships with family, which is not something a lot of YA oddly focuses on.
  • It's set in a believable future with feasible problems being experienced on Earth.

Satellite is also a very sad read at times and I think fans of more dramatic, character-driven YA will enjoy it.

To compare it to The Martian though is a bit of a stretch. But I don't really take any kind of comparisons seriously, as they are often just used to draw people into the novel. Sorry, but it's true.

The best part about this book is that it will be enjoyed by boys, who honestly drew the short end of the stick when it comes to choices on the YA shelf. So if you need something for your 15-17 year-old son to read, this is not a bad bet.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, October 12, 2017

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


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

The Appeal

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

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

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

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

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


The Books


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

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



Current titles available for purchase include:

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

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


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

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

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


The Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Film Review: Death Note (2017)



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

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

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

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

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

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

And this was where the Netflix adoption fell short.

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, September 4, 2017

Giveaway: How We Found You by JT Lawrence


It is giveaway time again!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Good luck!!!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Team: Call to Action


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

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

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

Requirements:

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus


Title: One of Us is Lying
Author: Karen McManus
Publisher: Penguin (June 2017)
On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.  
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.  
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn't an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
I am a sucker for a good YA Contemporary. While the market is diluted with junk aspiring to be the next Fault in Our Stars, there are some real gems out there.

I had heard about this one on BookTube (where I seem to hear about most of the good new releases these days) and I figured that it was worth a shot as the premise sounded interesting. The author has also said she drew inspiration from The Breakfast Club, which is one of those classic teen films that reminds me of high school. So I had to give it a try.

I love this book. I binged it in two sittings because I had to know what happened.

This is one of those books that would make an excellent movie. I hope they do eventually make one because it was so cleverly executed and would translate well on screen.

The main cast of characters are stereotypes, yes. But they are also flawed and have secrets I was itching to discover.

I know you will also ship two specific characters, but I give nothing away. Nothing!

I really don't want to say any more, because the less you know going into this book, the better.

I can tell you that if you are looking for a better option than 13 Reasons Why, this is your book!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: The Cathedral of Cliffdale by Melissa Delport


Title: The Cathedral of Cliffdale
Series: Guardians of Summerfeld #1
Author: Melissa Delport

Beyond the limits of mankind’s understanding there exists a city, created as a sanctuary for the survivors of a brutal and bloody war.  Within the city of Summerfeld the last mythical creatures live out their days in peace, fiercely protected by twelve immortals: brave defenders known as the Guardians.
A Guardian is dead. For the first time in one thousand years, no replacement has come forward. Following the murder of her twin sister, Quinn Harden abandons the Guardianship in order to take care of her sister’s children in the modern realm of man. Shortly after their second birthday, the children are taken, against her will, in an attempt by the Guardians to bring her back into the fold.  
Quinn will stop at nothing to find her niece and nephew, but as she is drawn deeper into the world of Summerfeld, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to her family and the wards she has sworn to protect.  
As their enemies close in the Guardians must unite or Summerfeld will fall.

Welcome to the first stop on my local Indie author tour!

This book, the first in the Guardians of Summerfeld series, blends many magical creatures into one unique world.

I loved Quinn. I found her to be a strong, positive character who stands up for herself and her beliefs. I thought it was amazing that she cares so deeply for her niece and nephew that was basically willing to forsake her destiny for them.

The plot moves along swiftly, although I did feel at times that a lot of the happenings were simply there to familiarize the readers with certain aspects of Summerfeld. I trust, however, that this will not be a problem in book two! And I really enjoyed learning more about the world and its inhabitants.

I did love how each group of magical creatures had their own habits and quirks. I personally would love to see Summerfeld with my own eyes and possibly bond with a unicorn or two!

If you love urban fantasy and would like something with hints of local flavor, give this series a shot.


Stay turned for reviews on the next three books in the series and don't forget that you can win copies of your very own right here!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Giveaway! Melissa Delport Bundle



Hey guys!

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

Guardians of Summerfeld Series - Books 1-4



The Traveler



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

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

The author, Melissa Delport.

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

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

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

Easy-peasy.

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

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

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


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



Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia


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

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

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

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

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

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

 You know where this is going, right?

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

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

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

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

But, I digress. :)

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

In Summary:

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June 2017 Wrap-Up

Hey, guys!

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

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

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



The books I read in June are:

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

GeekMeets: Stitches Yarn and Thread Emporium



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

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

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

Products:

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



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

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

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



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

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

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


Memes Only People Who Wear Glasses Will Understand

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








Thursday, June 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

1. The Cover


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


2. Get an Editor



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

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

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


3. Blurb



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

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

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

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

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


4. Formatting



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

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

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


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

Please do leave comments and suggestions below!













Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Harry Potter Means to Me #HarryPotter20



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett


Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (April 2017)

Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.  
When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex? 
I got wind of this book via BookTube and was pleasantly surprised to find a copy locally so quickly. I do have to mention that the decrease in waiting time from publication date to books being available in local stores is pleasing. It seems the local buyers are working hard to get books in the hands of customers before they resort to ordering online or reading a new release digitally because there is no other option. Props to them!

This one got me excited purely because it is a retelling of You've Got Mail. Kinda. It still manages to be its own unique story too. Obviously the overall plot of predictable, but I loved the cast of characters and the setting.

This takes place in a small touristy town in California during summer vacation. So, if you are in the US, you might want to pick this up for your summer vacation because it hits all the right vibes.

It has surfers, romance, a weird little museum, a scooter and two adorable leads. There are some heavier themes, but the book is not preachy and also doesn't rely on them to add depth to the characters.

I enjoyed Jenn Bennett's Night Owls, even though I found it a bit cliche. However, she has improved her style tremendously with this one.

If you are looking for something cute to take your mind off shitty life stuff, this is your book.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rant Review: Looking for Group - Rory Harrison


Title: Looking for Group
Author: Rory Harrison
Publisher: HarperTeen (2017)

Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as squalid, and he sure isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.” 
His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it is just online: Arden. And now that Dylan is suddenly in remission, he wants to take Arden on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea. 
But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden's father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

I was so excited for this book. It was supposed to tick all the boxes.

World of Warcraft!
LBGTQ representation!
Road trip!
Geekiness!

However, what I expected and what I read were vastly different things. Sure, there were all the WoW references by little gamer heart could desire, but that was about where the enjoyment stopped.

There was absolutely no fucking plot. None. Sure, the two protags had issues, but this does not a novel make. I felt like most of the time I was meandering around the confused mind of a teenager without a roadmap.

And, I am sorry, but the likelihood that a gay teen who has come to terms with his sexuality falling in love with a transgender female is pretty damn unlikely. Arden, for all intents and purposes, is a girl. Dylan feeling romantic feelings towards her is kinda like a giant middle finger in the face of her transition. It basically means he loves the boy parts about her and not the girl parts. This is pretty much how I see it anyway. And that is just plain unhealthy and also not something I think should be seen as an example of LBGTQ life. No. Just no.

I could be reading too much into it, but this is my opinion and I am sticking to it.

Plus, if a random boy rocked up at my house that I had only known online, I would probably call the cops. Not invite him him in for a stroll in Azeroth on WoW. Dylan just shows up and Arden is only mildly freaked for like three seconds.

I skimmed a lot of this. I was bored. I wondered when interesting things were going to happen. I got angry. I got bored. I got angrier.

This was also super John Green- like. Enough with the cancer sub-plot already. Enough with super special characters who are all sparkly, misunderstood snowflakes. I want realistic teens. I am not this old biddy who doesn't remember what those years were like.

Anyway, go read this if you want. If you like John Green, then you will probably enjoy this.

Review: Objects in Mirror - Tudor Robins


Title: Objects in Mirror (Stonegate Series #1)
Author: Tudor Robins
Self-published

Starving, starving... Grace is always starving these days. 
But Grace is also strong, and determined, and skinny. For the first time ever Grace is as thin as she wants to be – nearly – and there’s no way she’s giving that up. 
Except, what if she has to give up other things to be able to keep wearing her new “skinny” breeches? 
What if it comes down to a choice between all the horses she loves – Sprite, the ferocious jumper, and Iowa, the sweet greenie, and Whinny, the abused but tough mare – and the numbers on the scale, the numbers on food labels, the numbers always running through her head? 
Grace knows what her stepmother, Annabelle, wants her to decide. She knows what Matt – gorgeous, amazing Matt – wants her to do. She knows what the doctors think. 
But she also knows nobody else can make this decision for her. And sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s got the strength to do it. 
There is danger in living with anorexia, and there is also hope. Objects in Mirror is a truthful exploration of these extremes and of the struggles that lie between them.

When  I saw this book on promotion, I decided to grab a copy. It has been such a long time since I had read a horse book, I figured this one would be a great trip down nostalgia lane. To put this in context for those who don't know me, I am pretty horse obsessed and read all the horse books as a kid. Especially Saddle Club and the Thoroughbred series. To say I am familiar with the genre is an understatement.

But, I don't want you guys to think this book is only for horse-crazy types. Objects in Mirror is a poignant journey of a teenager and her battle with an eating disorder. I feel that this is something that isn't touched on too often and, when it is, it isn't approached in a realistic way.

I also loved that Grace was not this perfect wunderkind. Yes, she had a great relationship with Sprite, but I have known horses who prefer to have only one person ride them.

It was a fast-paced, easy read that I can highly recommend. I have not read too many self-published books as this is a new foray for me, but I was impressed with the quality of writing and overall formatting. This sounds like a stupid thing to mention, but there is a lot of crap out there.

If you are looking for a good read for your teenage daughter, this is a good bet. If you are wanting a solid book that deals with real issues without it being this super dramatic thing that is magically cured by love, pick this.

You can grab a copy off Amazon for your Kindle for less than $5 and there is a follow up in the works.


Friday, June 9, 2017

TBR Top 5: Big Books Edition


TBR Top 5 is a new feature I am going to try and do every Thursday. I have a pretty huge TBR pile and I thought to highlight some of these books and chat about them will help me get to them quicker than I have been doing. In theory, anyway. Plus, I really suck at sticking to monthly TBR shortlists, so at least I get to chat about books I am excited to read without breaking any promises to myself.

This week, I will be looking at the giants in the pile. Those books that are actually kind of intimidating because they are so big, but I want to get to anyway.



1. A Court of Mist and Fury / A Court of Wings and Ruin (Sarah J Maas)

The next two books in this series are huge, guys. Seriously, intimidatingly big. Probably the main reason why I haven't leaped on them like a hyena at a feeding frenzy.

If you don't know this series yet, get out from under your rock. It's pretty much the top fantasy read in YA at the moment. What started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast has become an epic, unique story with awesome characters.



2. Diviners / Lair of Dreams (Libba Bray)

This is a series set in 1920's America. The age of the American Dream. I absolutely love the setting and have read half of book one. Life got in the way, but I do plan to pick them up again very soon.

They are also super cheap at Reader's Warehouse. Going for just R69 each. They have both titles in stock.

Book three is also on the way at some point soon!


3. Passenger / Wayfarer (Alexandra Bracken)

These two make up a complete duology with time travel, romance, and mystery.

I confess that I did get them based on the covers alone, although they have gotten some mixed reviews on Goodreads.

I look forward to tucking into them soon, though!


4.Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)

This is the first in Brandon Sanderson's epic 10 book series. It weighs in at over 900 pages and I am so glad I have the smaller US edition, which is more compact in size than the UK version.

I am honestly not sure when I will read this, but it is on the TBR regardless. It's part of my mission to read through some of the best fantasy books as recommended by Buzzfeed.



5. Lady Midnight / Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)

Cassandra Clare. In spite of her basically drowning in controversy, I really do want to read all her books. I have started with her steampunky series and am quite liking it so far.

These two are part of her latest series offering and reviews seem very positive. Many saying that her writing has seriously improved.

I am really excited to pick these up after I have finished up Mortal Instruments. And, as a side note, I will not watch the TV show. So don't even ask. It looks cheesy and awful.

What big books do you guys have lined up to read?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Hushed by Joanne Macgregor


Title: Hushed
Author: Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: Self-published (April 2017)

Would you sacrifice your voice for love? 
18-year-old Romy Morgan desperately longs to escape the boring confines of home, and explore the world. 
When she saves her celebrity crush, superstar Logan Rush, from drowning, Romy is offered a job as his personal assistant. She strikes a deal to reinvent herself in exchange for entering the exciting world of the movies, and love sparks between her and this prince of Hollywood. But Romy soon discovers that she has traded her voice and identity for an illusion of freedom. 
When Romy discovers a dreadful secret with the power to destroy Logan, she must choose between love, vengeance and finding her own, true element.
I was fortunate enough to receive a physical copy of Hushed for review. Thank you so much, Joanne Macgregor!

Hushed is a fun, modernisation of The Little Mermaid. It is set in Cape Town and I really love that. There are far too few YA books set in South Africa.

I literally cruised through this one in two days. I found the story and characters captivating and authentic. I also really loved Logan and how the author deals with the stresses of being famous. I felt it was probably what a lot of young celebs go through, especially having the pressures of maintaining a public appearance and the assumption that your fans know who you are as a person.

This book has some good themes which feature quite strongly. Such as self-identity and having the courage to follow your own path.

Romy is a fantastic character, too. She is not a special snowflake and has family pressures I am sure most teens can relate to. She is strong with her head screwed on properly. I also love that she is big into conservation!

In short, if you are tired of over-hyped YA contemporary with unrealistic characters, give this a try. You can grab the ebook off Amazon for less than $4 or, if you are local, find physical copies at Love Books in Melville.