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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giveaway: Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie



If you are a fan of Jassy Mackenzie's Jade de Jong books, then this is the giveaway for you!

I have one awesome US hardback edition that has been signed that needs a new home. :)

This title is not available in stores yet locally, so this is a great opportunity to get your very own copy before the rest!

About the Book
Johannesburg PI Jade de Jong has been hired by Ryan Gillespie, the charming security director at the Inkomfe Nuclear Research Center, to trace a missing employee, Carlos Botha, who vanished just days after an attempted break-in. But when Jade traces Botha to the quiet suburb of Randfontein, she discovers that he’s the target of a hit, and that she’s now in danger by association. It becomes clear that someone intends to use Inkomfe’s nuclear power to heinous ends, and Jade must figure out whether that someone is Botha.
Need more information on the book? Check out my review here!

How to Enter

Leave a comment below or tweet me @UrbanisedGeek naming one of the other Jade de Jong titles.

You must live in SA to enter.
I will cover the costs of postage for the winner.
Draw will take place on the 28th May 2017 via my impartial judge-rat, Vega.

Good luck!


5 Books Better than 13 Reasons Why


I am openly critical about the tv show ans book 13 Reasons Why and figured I might as well offer some constructive help here, too. It's all very well telling people that the show is bad, but to not offer alternatives is a little irresponsible on my behalf.

Of course kids need to talk about loss and grief. Of course they need to find media that is relatable and helps them understand complicated tragedies like suicide, rape and addiction.

I have put together 5 awesome books that deal with core issues in a responsible manner. These books really stand out for me as some of the best in the genre. Also, none of them are written by John Green.


1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
 
Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers. 
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. (From Goodreads)
The fact that the author actually experienced date rape herself makes this a credible and important read. It doesn't glamorize it for the sake of plot.


2. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank. (From Goodreads)
This is an awesome novel told in prose. It covers the struggles with addiction and identity. I really recommend this to any teen who has had exposure to drugs and even alcohol addiction.


3. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? (From Goodreads)
 This is an awesome, touching book that deals with themes of loss, grief and death. It shows a comforting view of the afterlife with an opportunity to learn and accept fate.


4. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (From Goodreads)
I didn't like this book at first, but I realized it is actually pretty damn good as it really does deal with suicide and depression in a realistic way. Go read it instead of the offending book whose name I will not mention again. :P


5. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. (From Goodreads)
I adore this book. It left me with a major book hangover and weepy eyes. It's touching and has the best cast of characters. It's about family, sexual identity, loss and so much more. Just go and get a copy and thank me later after you have dried the tears.


Opinion: Are Literary Reviews Relevant In Today's Reading Landscape?

It is no secret that I am not a huge fan of literary reviews and will seldom chase after titles that critics have rated well with the upper echelons of literary critique.

He thinks you need more purple prose in your life.

There is this archaic misconception that only select books are considered "good literature". That reading anything other than these lauded titles means that one simply is not a real reader. This has irked me for years as I always felt that I was a reader! Readers, after all, read, do they not? It's in the name and everything.

It also said that reading these books is not supposed to be easy. That it should encourage thought and provide some mind-opening experience that will allow the reader to transcend the intellect of average mortals. "Read this!" critics proclaim. "Read this and have rainbows of superiority radiate from your nethers!"

Honestly, I feel that we live in the age of information. Where I can go from wanting a book to having its digital form on the device of my choosing in less than a minute. Where I have literally millions of books at my fingertips. Why would I want to slog through a book for the sake of literary snobbery? The world is hard enough, dammit. And yes, there is a place for difficult literature, but we need to shed the ridiculous ideals placed on the reading public.

I feel that these perceptions are damaging and, instead of promoting literacy and the love of reading, they can actually have the adverse effect. People should read for enjoyment and should have the liberty to pick books that appeal to them without their choices being frowned upon. Also, schools should have a look at their prescribed materials and determine if kids actually find these books fun to read. I know I would rather get papercuts than slog through Joseph Conrad's A Heart of Darkness, a book that was both mystifyingly short and long at the same time.

I have taken a look at a bestsellers list from 2016 and will highlight some of the results here for interest's sake.

The bestselling book of 2016 was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The reason for this is obvious. It's Harry Potter. It would sell even if it was the worst written book in history because the fans need more Harry. It clocked just under 1.5 million unit sales in the UK alone. This is hardly a literary masterpiece. The series has dominated best-seller charts for the past two decades because they are books that speak to the general public. There is a character everyone can relate to and fall in love with.

Hot on Harry's heels is The Girl on the Train, sales driven by the release of the film. I have read this book in one sitting. It is also far from being a literary work of art, but it has satisfying and addictive plot elements. It is also one of those hybrid titles that dips its toes into many different audience groups, including those of the snobbish variety. But, it remains an accessible read.

Go Set a Watchman, the newly discovered novel by Harper Lee, one she arguably never intended for publication, sits at number 70. This was a book that had set tongues wagging in all the high places, with readers clamoring for copies on the day of release. It's one of those books that you simply had to get because you would look good reading it. It was also bested by not one but three Wimpy Kid titles in terms of sales. Go figure.

Another example is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It managed to secure spot number 80 in spite of winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, ALA Alex Award and more. Certainly, it was not published that year, but one would think the accolades under its belt would have meant a higher ranking.

In 2012, The Guardian released a list of the top 100 bestselling books of all time.

The spots in the top ten that were not claimed by Harry Potter were taken by two of Dan Brown's novels (Da Vinci Code in the top spot) and Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades Darker sits in number 11 with Twilight in number twelve.

Here. Read these.

My point is simple. People read what makes them happy. It doesn't have to be verbose and "intelligent". Reading critically-acclaimed books should not be treated as a badge of honour. And no one, ever, should be judged by reading what they enjoy. The sales show the bigger picture. Critically acclaimed novels are not the ones that sell.

Literary reviews only cater to a very tiny, niche, upper-crust market. They actually mean very little in the grander scheme of things and should, quite frankly, not be taken very seriously at all. Well, unless you are the kind of person who needs this to define your own intellect and worth. Then, don't let me stop you. But don't point fingers when I laud my love of YA all over the internet, either!

If you think I am wrong or have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crime Month: 5 Favorite Female Fictional Detectives!



To kickstart Crime Month, I thought I would do a post on five awesome female fictional Detectives who really stand out for me. These characters come from both books and tv shows and are both awesome characters as well as competent in their fields. Plus, I am all for girl power here on the blog!

1. Mma Precious Ramotswe

Mma Ramotswe, played by Jill Scott in the 2009 tv series.

Mma Precious Ramotswe is the star of Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. The series is set in Botswana and was turned into a tv series of six episodes.

Mma Ramotswe is a fantastic character, who uses her inheritance from her father to set up her own Detective Agency. She helps the locals solve cases such as missing husbands, kidnappings as well as helping herself overcome her own personal demons.

Being the first female Detective in Botswana, Mma Ramotswe has to overcome a lot of prejudice and sexism but it is her feisty hardheadedness that helps her endure and rise above this.


2. Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is played by Kirsten Bell in the cult hit TV series.
Teen Detective, Veronica Mars, was a huge part of my TV viewing. The show of the same name ran from 2004-2007 and featured Veronica following her Detective father's footsteps.

While her father tries to rein in her enthusiasm for solving mysteries, Veronica often ends up being a key player in solving cased before her father does, earning his respect. She also acts as an unofficial detective for her school's newspaper, assisting in helping out her fellow students.

Veronica had a pretty crappy childhood after her mother left her and her father when he lost his job as Sheriff. She was also ousted from the popular crowd at school and becomes a victim of sexual assault after her drink is spiked at a party. But she uses her knack for investigating as a catalyst to overcome these hurdles and is a strong character who stands up for what is right.


3. Nancy Drew


Created in 1930, Nancy Drew is one of the most iconic female characters of the past century. Her character has shifted with the times, but has always been a figurehead for girls to aspire to the world over.

Nancy is always driven by what is right and doesn't let the patriarchy get in her way. She can fix her own car, is trusted by her father and can even shoot a firearm.

There have been several TV series and films based on the series and new books are being written by new authors every year, continuing Nancy's legacy into the new millennium.


4. Kate Beckett

Stana Katic as Kate Beckett in the ABC series, Castle.
Castle's Kate Beckett is yet another strong, female character. The TV series would not be the same without her and author Richard Castle's banter and flirtatious relationship. She is also one of the few people who are immune to his crap, in spite of being a fan of his novels.

She is intelligent, well-read and also a bit of a geek at heart, having been an avid reader of comic books from a young age. I can personally relate to all these things. ;)


5. Tenperance Brennan

Emily Deschanel in Bones.


Tempe Brennan is the leading character in a series of books by Kathy Reichs. The character is later portrayed by Emily Deschanel in the hit TV show, Bones.

Bones is actually only very loosely based on the books, but rather draws inspiration from the life of author Kathy Reichs.

Tempe is not exactly the best with people, often struggling socially and missing social cues and references. However, she is a brilliant Forensic Anthropologist who uses her ability to remove emotions from a situation to approach crimes with logic and facts.


I will be doing another post on five more awesome characters, as I have realized there are just too many who deserve a mention! If you think I left someone out, please let me know in a comment!