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!

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

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!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Update: #CrimeMonth

Hey everyone!

I have decided to go back to themed months here, on the blog.

The reasoning behind this is that is actually quite fun to feature some different books and authors and it gives me a chance to spread my wings a little.

Because of recently reading Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie, I have had a crazy urge to read some more crime fiction. So I popped into my local secondhand bookshop yesterday and bought myself a copy of the first JD Robb novel in her epic 45 book series, Naked in Death. I am quite excited about this as it's set in the future and I believe quite romantic too. Who doesn't love a good action-romance, right?

Of course I am worried as, if I like it, it could become quite costly for me. Fortunately, the books are easy to find second-hand!

I also want to read some more of Jassy Mackenzie's Jade de Jong series, as I have only read a couple and would like to get to know Jade better.

I figure it might also be a good time to read a Dresden Files novel or two. Technically, it is crime fiction, even if it is supernatural crime!

There is also Castle to watch, a series I have been dying to see and is finally on ShowMax. It features an author who works closely with the police to solve crimes. That is completely up my alley. Besides, Nathan Fillion is a brilliant actor who makes any character he portrays come to life.

Because of all of the above, it makes sense to have May as Crime Month on the blog!

I will be reviewing all of the above, of course. I also want to do some fun features in between  the reviews!

Don't forget to enter in the giveaway to win a copy of Private:Gold! I will also be giving away an awesome US hardback of Bad Seeds! This is where us local readers can get their hands on a copy before it gets released locally! So you definitely want to enter this one!

If you have any reccomendations for shows I need to watch or books I need to read, let me know!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blog Update: Revival and Refurbishment!

Hey, everyone!

You may have noticed that the humble blog has had a bit of tweak over the past week.

Some of the changes include:

  1. Shiny new branding
  2. URL change:
  3. Variety in content
I have also had a change in e-mail address. You guys can now get in touch with me on monique(at)

This is all part of the effort to create a more professional image for the blog. I have a lot of big plans and dreams for the next few years for this little project of mine.

So, here are some of the exciting new things that you can expect to see at UrbanisedGeek:
  1. PC and console game reviews - I have dabbled in this before, but I would really like to expand of this a little as it is a big part of my interests. These will feature both new and classic games and may even include some video footage of yours truly playing like a noob.
  2. YouTube reviews - I hope to branch out a little and do some videos of book reviews to compliment the written ones. Let's see how it goes, but I am tentatively excited about this. It's also going to be a huge learning curve for me.
  3. Guest posts - I am going to try rope some other local bloggers into doing a few guest posts for me! We bloggers need to help each other out to grow our audiences, after all.
  4. Bookstagramming - Expect some pretty header images as I plan to use my photography skills to style some images of featured titles.
  5. Opinion pieces - After the good reception of my latest post on 13 Reasons Why, I definitely want to do more of these. They will keep with the general theme of the blog. As if I would ever be brave enough to voice my political opinions, anyway!
I cannot wait to bring some great, new content to the blog and have fun learning along the way!

If you have any suggestions, please drop me a comment below. :)

Stay awesome!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Giveaway: Private: Gold by Jassy Mackenzie

Money. Betrayal. Murder.
That's a Private conversation. 
Hired to protect a visiting American woman, Private Johannesburg's Joey Montague is hoping for a routine job looking after a nervous tourist. After the apparent suicide of his business partner, he can't handle much more. But this case is not what it seems--and neither is his partner's death.

 Best-selling author, James Patterson, released a series of books last year which aim to create a thrilling storytelling experience in 150 pages. These books are aimed at busy readers who might not be able to commit to a full-length novel, but still want to fit in some quality reading without all that extra padding.

 The latest of these, Private: Gold, is co-authored by local writer, Jassy Mackenzie, who is well-known for her Jade de Jong series.

In celebration of the new-look blog as well as the local release of Private: Gold, I am giving away a signed copy!

To enter is simple! Leave a comment below naming your favorite fictional cop or Private Investigator with reasons why!

Oh, and keep an eye out for a review and Q&A session with Jassy!

The fine print:
South African residents only!
We will cover the costs of SAPO postage anywhere in South Africa for the winner.
Winners will be chosen by one of my rats in an impartial process.
The draw will take place on the 7th May 2017.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Opinion: On 13 Reasons Why and Media Responsibility

SPOILERS AHEAD - do not read further if you still want to see the show and are worried about having anything ruined for you!

If you have been hanging around Twitter and other Social Media lately, you would have seen the hype surrounding Netflix's latest supershow, 13 Reasons Why.

13 Reason's Why is based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher. It was originally optioned for tv in 2015 and had Selena Gomez (yes, that Selena Gomez) as an Executive Producer. It focuses on the suicide of high school teen, Hannah Baker, who leaves behind tapes in which she explains her reasons for why she killed herself. She holds select individuals at her high school responsible and goes into detail on the series of events which ultimately lead to her death.

The show, released in March of this year in its entirety, has been binge-watched by everyone from teens to the adults who read the book as teens ten years' previously. It has also received pretty mixed reactions.

So, what is the problem? The show has been favourably reviewed. It's one of the most talked-about series of the year. And yes, this includes Game of Thrones. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an approval rating of 91%. IGN gave it 9.2 out of ten. Surely the critics know what they are talking about.

If we evaluate the show from a technical perspective, sure. It's good. The actors are excellent. The tension and build-up are well-executed. The cinematography compliments the whole feel. Netflix doesn't mess around and clearly have the budget to spare.

It was a chat with my bookclub that got me thinking and doing some reading over the weekend and that, ultimately, lead to me wanting to get my thoughts out there and perhaps facilitating more discussions around the problems with this show and similar media.

The events that unfold are mostly from Hannah's perspective. Clay, one of the recipients of the tape, also gives the viewers some insight, but we are still mostly dependent on Hannah to tell us what happened. This is problem number one.

Meet Hannah Baker.

Unreliable narrator, thy name is Hannah Baker. She is clearly suffering from some kind of mental issue which is never fully disclosed or dealt with in the series. Therefore how can we, as an audience, trust the information being told to us? I felt that Hannah's fallibility is never properly dealt with either. Instead of seeing the flaws in her character, the heat is constantly on the people whom she sends the tape out to.

Sending out those tapes is also one of the biggest acts of hubris I have ever seen. Hannah was focused on herself, her troubles. She obviously never considered the impact those tapes would have on the people listening to them. Or, maybe she did. It was a way to ensure that she would never be forgotten. And that someone would take responsibility and feel guilty for her death.

Wow. As I sit here, I cannot imagine how someone could think this is the best route to take.

Of course, Hannah was bullied. A lot of bad shit went down in her life. But who is the ultimate victim? Is it Hannah or is it Clay, the boy who didn't love her enough because he was afraid to.

Clay did nothing wrong, really. But he gets a tape too. And he gets the burden of survivor's guilt.

I am going to be frank. I was bullied in school. Badly. Physical and mental bullying. I was the kid who had a lazy eye, bad skin and zero boobs. I was reminded of all my flaws on a near daily basis. Kids are assholes. It's part of the high school experience.

But not once, ever, did I consider ending it all. Ever. Because I had the mental fortitude to deal with it.

The point here, which I mentioned earlier, is that Hannah had other problems. Clinical depression or the like where she was unable to deal with it. She was unable to cope mentally and eventually saw suicide as the only option. The show does not go into this and rather chooses to give the message that being decent will save someone. Being a friend will save someone. Which is complete rubbish. The issue is simply not that black and white.

If kids are entertaining suicidal thoughts, 13 Reasons Why is probably not the best show for them to watch. They may even be encouraged to leave their own tapes as some sort of legacy. There is also the issue where the audience might not be old enough to understand and rationalise that the suicide and tapes are basically a vehicle for the plot of the show.

The show has been criticised as glorifying suicide. That they are sending an irresponsible message out into the world where impressionable teenagers look up to media for examples. Yes, it is getting awareness out about bullying. That's all well and good. But being bullied is not the only factor.

The show could also be triggering for people who have tried to commit suicide in the past or have had someone close to them commit suicide. It also deals with two instances of rape, which could also be damaging. The show also has no tact in showing these scenes to the audience. It's pretty visual and disturbing.

Yes, we need to talk about issues like suicide. But, is running a show like this really the best way to raise awareness? If you have teens who love the show, chat to them. Make them aware of the differences between fiction and reality.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie

Title: Bad Seeds (Jade de Jong Book 5)
Author: Jassy Mackenzie
Publisher: Soho Crime (April 2017)

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.

So Easter is coming up and you have no idea what to read. You are also looking for books with an exciting plot and a strong female protagonist. You are tired of crime fiction that follows the usual tropey nonsense.

I suggest, if anything I just said rings true, that you get a copy of Bad Seeds. Do not be put off by the fact that it is book 5 in a series. It does pretty much stand alone. I promise.

Rather than give you a traditional review, here are ten reasons why you should give this book a try!

  1. Jade. She is awesome and resourceful. It's so refreshing to have a strong, female lead that I actually like.
  2. The sense of humor is clever and not over-the-top. They way Jade sees the world and her internal commentary on even the smallest things is so entertaining to read.
  3. It's fast-paced. You will fly through this, wanting to know exactly what happens next.
  4. It's set in my hometown. This one might not apply to all readers, but I found it so great to have landmarks I know referenced with accuracy. I also think it will give non-locals a great taste of our country.
  5. No info-dumping. You would think, with 4 books already behind her, that we would need to be caught up to a lot information regarding Jade and her past. This is tastefully done with smatterings throughout the book.
  6. The book deals with topical issues like Nuclear Energy in a way that shows research has been done. But, it also didn't bog down the pacing of the story with technical rubbish the reader actually doesn't care about.
  7. Carlos Botha. There. I added him. Just because I am tired of male leads hogging all the glory doesn't mean I want all my mental eye candy taken away. Bad guy or good guy? You have to read the book to find out what I mean!
  8. There is an actual mystery to solve. And it's not all that predictable. You as a reader find yourself in Jade's shoes as she has no idea who to trust.
  9. It reads like a film. I could picture everything happening like it would on-screen. I even have some ideas for the cast.
  10. The inclusion of other points-of-view really adds depth to the story as the characters put the pieces together. And Warrant Officer Mweli can definitely return in future books with her love of fast food and her cat, Chakalaka. 

You can get a copy of Bad Seeds here in hardback or audiobook. It will be published in South Africa by Umuzi Publishers soon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nandi Reviews: The Recoil Trilogy by Joanne Macgregor

Title: The Recoil Trilogy
Author: Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: KDP (2016)

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real. 
Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.  
Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats. 
She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.
When a highly contagious, killer virus is released by terrorists, people are forced to live indoors and take extreme precautions to keep themselves safe. The American population stays indoors, and only leaves for government sanctioned events, and only while wearing personal protective suits and masks to avoid the risk of contracting the disease. Because of this, teenagers play “The Game”, a violent virtual reality game where the player attempts to take out the enemy as an army specialist.

Our heroine, Jinxy, plays The Game as a sniper, and after honing her skills playing, is recruited by the government to help fight the spread of the killer virus.

The trilogy follows Jinxy as she is trained in a government compound. During the course of the story, we find out what the government has told the population, and we journey with Jinxy as she finds out the truth about both the virus and those who she thought were keeping her safe. As is usual for most YA books, there is a romantic element which adds to our understanding and empathy for Jinxy, and enhances the story rather than detracts from it.

The story covers themes of politics, terrorism, propaganda and activism, and although these are usually adult themes, they are blended seamlessly with the character and story development. They are looked at through the eyes of a teenager and are therefore easy to understand, without being over-simplified. Empathy for the characters is developed early on in the story, so it is easy to become immersed in the story. There is also a large aspect of emotional and conscience development in the majority of the characters, which keeps them real to the reader. There are some twists to the story that were entirely unexpected, which makes for an exciting reading experience.

I read Recoil before realising that it was the first book in a trilogy, and the third book had yet to be released. I held off reading Refuse (the second book) until after Rebel was released (which felt like ages, but was only a couple of months). I then read the trilogy in 2 days, as I couldn’t put it down. This really was a fantastic read, and I will be rereading it in the not-to-distant future. I love dystopian YA, and this is definitely one of my favourites – well written, an excellent story, and great character development.

(Nandi Baard is a co-blogger on UrbanisedGeek. She is a primary school teacher who can easily read a couple of books in a day during the school holidays. Hopefully, we will feature more of her reviews soon!)

Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin (Oct 2016)

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

I am not going to lie. I was super hesitant about this book because I was really not a fan of Niven's debut, All the Bright Places.

I had a huge problem with her romanticising depression and suicide. In fact, I have a problem with a lot of YA contemporary novels for trying to make serious conditions a trivial plot point.

However, Holding Up the Universe was different. I loved Libby and Jack. The plot is compelling and twisty. In fact, I binged this book in a day.

I loved that this book did deal with just how shitty we are as people when it comes to what others look like. Because being fat is apparently a crime. And being skinny is also a crime. I fell in the Too Skinny Camp for all of my high school years and was even called into the counselor's office because it was suspected I had an eating disorder. Thanks to the overly concerned parent who raised that issue. It really helped me with my already weighty insecurities.

Jack's point of view was also interesting. I had never heard of the condition he has, where he is unable to recognise people by their faces. I thought this was written really well and his struggles from day to day felt real.

This book did have problems. I still have issues with the use of mental / physical conditions as a catalyst for love and will probably blog more about my thoughts on that. Maybe. But, in a sea of cliched, trite YA contemporaries all clamouring to be the next Fault in Our Stars, this one was really not that bad.

If you want a sweet read that is well researched and written, you won't go wrong with this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Magic: the Gathering 101 - Basic Walkthrough

So you have seen these posts on my blog. You may have seen the odd mention of Magic on some of my Social Media and, if you have never touched the game before, you are probably wondering what the hell it actually is.

It is really hard to pick a single focal point to start this series of blog posts off with, but I think a basic walkthrough of how the game works as well as the various phases of play will hopefully make sense to new players.

What is Magic?
In a nutshell, Magic is a card game where you face-off against an opponent with a 60 card deck. You can have more cards, but 60 is the recommended amount to keep your deck as consistent as possible.

Each player starts with a life total of 20. The objective is to win by casting spells (cards) which cause them to lose all their life or to draw all their cards. One either of these things happen, you win the game.

A deck consists of creature cards, other spells which you can play at specific times and your lands (mana base), which allow you to cast limited spells per turn. I will go into more detail on these in a later post.

Starting a Game
Each player shuffles their deck and rolls a 20-sided die to determine who starts the game. The person with the highest roll can decide if they start or of their opponent starts. There are advantages to both options as you may want to get the extra card draw or have an extra land in play.

Players then cut each other's decks by dividing them in two or doing a shuffle and then the game starts.

The player who starts does not get to draw a card and they then follow the normal phases of a turn. The player going second does get to draw at the start of their turn.

Untap Phase
Before anything else happens, at the start of each player's turn, the player must untap all cards which had been tapped in the previous turn.

Cards are tapped for abilities and this then exhausts them, meaning the card is essentially out of play until the next turn. Untapping cards essentially replenishes them for use in your turn.

Upkeep Phase
Before a player draws a card, some of the cards may have abilities that kick off at the start of that turn. These abilities must be resolved before a card is drawn.

Draw Phase
This is where the top card from your deck or library is drawn and added to your existing hand.

This is not optional and each player must draw a card, regardless of hand size at that time. Sometimes, there are cards with abilities that allow an extra card to be drawn.

First Main Phase
This is the phase where you play a land card if possible. This is limited to one per turn unless an ability permits additional land to be played.

This is also the phase where you cast sorceries, play enchantments and bring your creature minions into play. Creature cards, unless they have the "haste" ability, cannot attack in the turn they have been summoned.

Combat Phase
This phase is optional as you might decide you would like to hold your creatures back to block your opponent in their next turn.

You declare which creatures will be attacking and then your opponent will have an opportunity to disrupt the attack with spells or designate creatures as blockers.

This then resolves and damage goes off the opponent's life total and any creatures who have died are removed from the game to the graveyard.

Second Main Phase
This gives you the chance to cast more cards if possible before closing your turn.

End Phase
If you hand size if over seven at this stage, you then have to discard as many cards as necessary to get it back to seven cards.

Players then pass turns until inevitable victory.

Obviously, Magic is a LOT more complicated than this and I will cover many more aspects of the game in weeks to come.

You can also check out an interview with one of South Africa's Pro players, Jason Ward, and get some advice from him on getting into the game.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Magic: Meet the Pros: Jason Ward

We will be interviewing a few of the more serious Magic players in the coming weeks to give an overview of the game and their journey into competitive Magic.

Today we feature a Q&A with top-ranked Magic: The Gathering player, Jason Ward. Jason had the honour of representing South Africa recently at the 2016 World Magic Cup.

Jason Ward (left) with the SA World Cup team.

1. What is your background with MTG? How did you get started playing the game?
As a kid, I saw a lot of people playing the game but I only started to play in high school casually with a friend for a few months. I first bought cards from Kamigawa (one of the sets of cards that get released a few times a year) and I had a blast playing for a few months.
I got back into Magic around 2012 and I started to buy cards and take the game seriously at this point.

2. How would you describe your particular playing style?
Quick and thoughtless. I play all the archetypes, control/aggro/combo/midrange and all their combinations. I'd say I play midrange the least of the bunch. I tend to gravitate towards the combo side of the spectrum (this requires getting specific cards out in a specific order, doing devasting things to your opponent).

3. How do you recommend new players get involved and learn the game? 
The same stuff it takes to get good is the same stuff it takes to get involved and learn the game.
Ignore results, have fun. Keep learning. It's when we start thinking we know things that we run into trouble. Keep an open mind and don't become static.

4. What is your advice for putting a deck together? Should new players build from scratch or go with sealed product?
It depends on what your goals are in magic. If you want to do well at FNM, you should probably buy a sealed deck and keep building on it. That's how I began.
If your goals are to be the best you'll improve the learning curve by playing net decks. First figure the game out before you start trying to change things.
I often try to tweak existing net decks and often just go back to the original net build, people often know what they are doing.
Gaining understanding is the most important thing.

5. What is your favourite format and why? Tell us a little about the format and how if differs from the others.
Hard to say, so far I enjoy all the competitive formats. I enjoy grinding out an advantage in a standard game but sometimes you just want to combo people in modern.
Draft is great and it's really a tragedy how few draft events we have in SA (Draft involves building decks from a limited pool of cards on the day before competing).

6. If you have played MTG overseas, how does it compare to the local scene and what did you take away from the experience?
The players practice harder. They aren't hindered by an ego like we are. We're big fish in a small pond.  The overall experience was quite positive and the players were enjoyable to play against.
You can see the confidence in their plays based on their level of practice.

7. What is your greatest achievement in MTG to date?
Personally, it's getting the opportunity to test with Nic Chrysochou, a top local player, and becoming a stronger player as a result.

8. What role has Magic played in your life?
Amazing creative outlet, meeting great friends. Awesome hobby.

9. Where is your local Magic hangout and why do you enjoy going there?
Battle Wizards Centurion, great vibe and great people.

10. Do you think people need to put in a lot of money in order to be competitive in MTG? Any advice for players on a budget?

  • Generally yes. It depends what format you play.
  • Honestly, playing limited is ideal for new players:
  • You build up a card pool.
  • Aren't hindered by card availability.
  • Gain fundamental skills and get to play with creature combat and combat tricks.
  • More social experience than normal magic events
  • Entrance looks prohibitive but you always walk away with something, even if you're 8th in standings for a reverse draft you usually get decent cards. (8th best card out of 24 boosters, you could have had the worst rares in your original packs.)
Thank you so much for taking the time for this Q&A Jason! All the best for the 2017 season!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

50 YA Books to Read Before You Die

I think I need to make more lists! Lists are fun and also they hopefully help someone find the right book at the right time.

I put this some together with teens in mind. More specifically, to encourage teens to read more meaningfully and not just target books that are hyped.

I have given a brief reason under each title and have deliberately left off any pictures so that you can print this off and stick it on a wall. Please note these are all books I have personally read.

Happy reading!

1. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
This is a given. It's Harry Potter and kids need to read the books instead of just seeing the films and thinking that is all there is to this world.

2. Twilight Saga - Stephenie Meyer
There are probably people shaking their heads at this, but this series got kids reading. And they should also be able to read something and make up their own minds about the content.

3. The Giver - Lois Lowry
The message in this book is powerful and thought-provoking. Plus, it can be read in a day.

4. The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
Another series that offers far more than the films. Katniss is a strong heroine and a great role model.

5. Divergent Trilogy - Veronica Roth
This series is about the choices one makes and self-definition.

6. The Boof Thief - Markus Zusak
This historical novel is compelling and will perhaps make that History lesson more poignant.

7. Vampire Academy -Richelle Mead
I have included this because it is one of the best vampire series out there. And Rose is her own person, which girls need to realise is ok in today's society.

8. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
Because it's tragic and heartbreaking. And so relevant.

9. Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
A coming-of-age story that is easy to read and also pretty funny and sad all at the same time.

10.The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - Ann Brashares
Another coming-of-age series that has great characters who will feel like your friends when you are done. There is a film, but read the books. As always.

11. Shiver Trilogy - Maggie Stiefvater
Lyrical and atmospheric. Worth the read for the romance and mythology.

12. Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
Romantic and deals with real issues. Just one of this author's range of titles that should be read.

13. Watership Down - Richard Adams
A story of survival and heroism. With an interesting style of writing interspersed with fables.

14. Sabriel - Garth Nix
An epic fantasy series that deals with good versus evil and mortality. Plus also has a great female lead.

15. The Lunar Chronicles - Marissa Meyer
There are just fun. Each book is based off a well-known fairy tale and it is fun to draw comparisons.

16. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
A classic that is still relevant today. There is a play and a full novel version available. Read both.

17. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
This is on her for the writing style and the fascinating world-building. Beautiful, lyrical novel.

18. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
Set in the 1980's, this is a story about not fitting in and acceptance.

19. Wonder - RJ Palacio
Another novel about not fitting in and being different. Told from various perspectives.

20. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Romantic, funny and relevant. Cath, the protagonist, is easily relatable.

21. Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin
Deals with the question of what happens after we die. Touching and poignant.

22. The Mediator Series - Meg Cabot
Fun, frivolous. For the reluctant reader.

23. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Told in the form of poetry. About the dangers of drug addiction and what it is like to be addicted.

24. The Raven Cycle - Maggie Stiefvater
Magic, amazing writing and a cast of characters you will want to call your own.

25. On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Set in Australia. Coming-of-age themes. Amazing writing.

26. East - Edith Pattou
A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Lyrical and touching.

27. Stolen: A Letter to my Captor - Lucy Christopher
Set in Australia about a girl who is kidnapped and deals with the consequences of being confined in the Australian outback.

28. Cut by Patricia McCormack
An easy-to-get-into read dealing with mental health issues.

29. Skellig - David Almond
A moving tale that delves into mythology and death.

30. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
This one is good for anyone coping with loss.

31.The Books of Pellinor - Allison Croggon
A great starter fantasy with a compelling world and magic system.

32. I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
This one made me cry. It will make you cry. Deals with sexuality, family and loss.

33. The Dark Days Club - Alison Goodman
Regency / Steampunkish fun about a demon hunter!

34. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Classic, one of my favorite novels. Has so many themes and who wouldn't love Jane?

35. Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers
Fantasy about an assassin who is also a strong female character.

36. Hate List - Jennifer Brown
This is so relevant with all the school shootings that have happened. Sad, yet inspiring.

37. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
WW2 novel focused on friendship and the hardships of war. And planes!

38. The Diviners - Libba Bray
Set in 1920's New York with supernatural elements and proper moments that will scare you.

39. The Black Magician Trilogy - Trudi Canavan
A great introduction to fantasy with enough action and character building to keep die-hard readers engaged.

40. Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
Six thieves and one impossible heist set in a fictionalised version of our world.

41. Pure - Julianna Baggott
Dystopian novel - probably one of the most unique I have read in this genre.

42. The Ear, The Eye and The Arm - Nancy Farmer
Set in Zimbabwe with fantasy elements.

43. The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
A unique fantasy that is well-conceptualised with great characters.

44. Chasing Brooklyn - Lisa Schroeder
A novel told in verse. I have a soft spot for these and it shows not all poetry is outdated and boring.

45. Maus - Art Spiegelman
A graphic novel written by the son of a survivor of Auschwitz. It is harrowing and symbolic and so, so well done.

46. Watchmen - Alan Moore
This is one of the most recommended graphic novels. It is even on Times 100 books you must read! It deals with the concept of a superhero and their fallibility.

47. Far From You - Tess Sharpe
Mystery novel whuich also touches on sexuality and coming to terms with grief.

48. The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
Full of action and a unique setting. There is also romance but this is more than just that.

49. Nimona - Noelle Stevenson
Graphic novel focused on relationships and the power of perception.

50. The Darkest Powers Trilogy - Kelley Armstrong
A paranormal series that is strongly focused on mental health issues.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Magic: The Gathering Series

I am diversifying a bit this year and will be doing regular features on my other hobby, Magic: The Gathering.

This will be split into two flavours:

  • Meet the Pros - Q&A Sessions with some of South Africa's established players.
  • Magic 101 - a fun, informative guide to the ins and outs of the game.
I hope this will raise more awareness and get more people playing what, in my opinion, is an excellent social game that develops creativity, strategy and lateral thinking skills.

Stay tuned for the first post in the next week!

GeekMeets: DeeTwenty Geeking Venue

Venue: DeeTwenty Geeking Venue
Address: 85 Jan K Marais Drive, Malanshof, Randburg
Hours: Weekday evenings from 4pm - 11 pm
            Weekends from 9am - 5pm (Sat) / 2pm (Sun)
Facebook Page

A little-known fact about me is that I am really into a competitive trading card game called Magic: the Gathering. One of the key things I love about being a Magic player is the opportunity to meet and make friends with other Magic players and compete in tournaments.

Of course, there are a few venues in Johannesburg where one can do these awesome things, but my regular spot, based in Randburg, is DeeTwenty, a place where geeks and just be geeks and do all sorts of geeky activities.

Thanks to DeeTwenty, geeks no longer need to struggle to find people to play boardgames with or having a space big enough to game at! DeeTwenty provides all these things for the cost of just R55 for a day pass. This also gets you bottomless coffee, tea, hot chocolate (with marshmallows!) and juice. This also includes access to their WiFi. DeeTwenty also has the PowerUp Bar, which supplies their visitors with a selection of sandwiches and other eats at reasonable prices.

For the uninitiated, DeeTwenty hosts themed events every week. A typical week will run as follows:

  • Monday - Star Trek Night - partake in various themed Trekkie games and roleplaying.
  • Wednesday - Board Games Session, Magic the Gathering (Commander format) and Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying
  • Friday - Magic: The Gathering Friday Night Magic (FNM) - a weekly tournament where one can win prizes and earn points
  • Saturday - Magic: The Gathering (Commander), Cardfight! Vanguard and roleplaying
  • Sunday - Roleplaying
The club is decked out with appropriate decor. From Marvel, to DC to Star Trek paraphernalia, it adds to the experience! The owner, Owen Swart, also runs music in the background from his extensive playlist of themes and other related tunes from all sorts of shows, films and games.

Owen started DeeTwenty in 2013, where it was originally based in Blairgowrie. Since it's inception, the club has grown and moved to a more accommodating venue and has cemented a diverse group of regulars. DeeTwenty is also home to Sad Robot, an online store that specialises in the sale of Magic: The Gathering cards.

So, if you are looking to get into games like Magic or get involved with a regular RPG group, this is the place to go! There are always folks around willing to help out and offer advice.

Stay tuned to the blog, as I will be doing a regular feature on Magic: The Gathering with posts on the game, how to play as well as interviews with prominent South African Magic players.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Top 5 Series I Plan to Finish in 2017

Any fan of YA fiction will know the struggle is real when it comes to keeping up with series. I had a look at my shelves this weekend and I realised I own a LOT of completed series that I have not actually gotten around to reading past the first book.

Here is a list of the top 5 series I really want to get to finishing this year! These are all series that I own already.

1. Snow Like Ashes Trilogy - Sara Raasch

2. Shatter Me Trilogy - Taherah Mafi

3. Sweet Evil Trilogy - Wendy Higgins

4. Mara Dyer Trilogy - Michelle Hodkin

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

I will keep you guys updated on how I do with finally getting to wrapping up these series! Some have been sitting on my shelves for ages now and it's about time I read them!

Do you have any series that you are dying to get to this year? Let me know in the comments!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @UrbanisedGeek for more bookish and geeky ramblings!