Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mini book review: Banished by Liz de Jager

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on Liz de Jager’s Banished. 

Summary from Goodreads (published by TorUK in 2014) 
Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives.

And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in.

With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies.

As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

You can purchase a copy of the book on

My thoughts:

What a fun, jam-packed with action little read. I've always been a fan of fairy books and Banished, despite its flaws (I feel as if this needed more of an edit as some sentences were rather clumsily constructed), proved to be right up my alley.

Kit Blackheart is probably one of the most phenomenal and butt-kicking female characters I've come across in urban fantasy - I often had to ask myself how this little daredevil was still alive, given all the unwise risks that she took.

There were quite a number of surprises in this book, and I particularly loved how Liz cleverly diverted my attention from figuring out who else was involved in the plot.

From the start Liz gives us an inkling of an attempted coup being plotted, but there is a twist that I admittedly didn't see coming (although, with hindsight, it's one that I probably should have seen).

The cast of supporting characters were certainly interesting in their own way, although Kit is definitely the one that stood out most for me.

Not quite sure how to feel about the romance between Kit and Prince Thorn, the fae prince she rescues (and mostly keeps having to rescue, although Thorn is definitely no shrinking violet), but it would be interesting to see how things develop in the second book and beyond.

The world building in this book is pretty incredible as well. There are all manner of fae creatures and Liz liberally peppers her book with information and history of said otherworldly beings at the beginning of almost every chapter.

My copy of Vowed, the second book in the Blackheart Legacy series is sitting on my desk waiting to be read, and I really hope it will follow the format that is employed in Banished.

All in all, Liz de Jager’s Banished is a book that's a) worth checking out, and b) worth continuing onto the next book.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book talk: What's your favourite word?

What would stories be if they had no words to form them?

A lovely friend and colleague of mine recently wrote a post about her top 5 favourite words.  I couldn’t help but geek out when I read her article.

You see, as a bibliophile and word nerd, it’s simply not possible for me to love books and ignore the prose within them (yes, yes, I can all hear you saying ‘duh’, but bear with me, I do have a point to make).

Sure, we all read for the characters and the story and the adventures that liberate us from reality for the duration of the book, but what would those stories be if they had no words to form them?

And what would conversations be if we didn’t have them?

Words are beauty and cruelty. They can be used to mock, or be used to seduce. They can cajole, lure and manipulate, and they can move you to tears, evoke a sense of wonder and most importantly, breathe life into your imagination.

There is power and magic in words. And there is a good reason that the old saying about pen being mightier than the sword exists.

We have a pretty formidable weapon we can wield, and often we opt to use it to hurt and silence voices already struggling to be heard. 

In the spirit of all things wordy, I thought I’d share 5 of my favourite words. In no particular order, they are as follows:

- a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.

Because the word brings to mind fairies flitting about in gauzy little outfits and dragonfly wings.

- a dangerous, foreboding, or deathlike influence or atmosphere.

This can also refer to "noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter; poisonous effluvia or germs polluting the atmosphere,” but I much prefer the above-mentioned definition.

- a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.

I’ve always associated this with romance and new beginnings, and because every time I see this word, I can immediately conjure the actual scent of the rain, following its downpour.

- sweetly or smoothly flowing; sweet-sounding:

The definition is exactly what it feels like when you say the word out loud, don’t you think?

- a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.

I’m a sucker for sad and beautiful words and things, and melancholy pretty much embodies this in every way. I’m all about the angst, yes.

I asked some Women24 book club newsletter readers to tell me about their favourite words; this is how you responded:


Pareidolia - I just love that there's a word for the experience we have all had at sometime or another - seeing or the ability to see a human face in inanimate or abstract objects.

I have often 'seen' beautiful women, feuding lovers, horses in the rust patches of my dad's car, the peeling paint from a wall or water splashes on the bathroom floor after a shower.


I love the word Soliloquy – it sounds so mysterious and intriguing.

(I like the fact that few people know what it means *blush* ‘cause I do. How’s that for a 3-year old rationale? LOL!)


Scintillating – because it conjures up all things bling, bright and beautiful.


Superfluous - unnecessary, especially through being more than enough.

I am not exactly sure why this is one of my favourite words but I really like the flow of the word; and the fact that it has too many vowels shows the meaning in my opinion.


Vociferous is my favourite word only because it sounds very forceful - carries a lot of weight without one even having to know what it means. Just pronouncing the word gives me goosebumps. Weird I know.

What's your favourite word and why? Leave a comment and let me know.

This column originally appeared as part of Women24’s monthly book club newsletter. Keen to receive this as a monthly newsletter in your own inbox? You can subscribe here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book review: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins

A delicious little read that will make you feel all the fizzy and cotton candy feels.

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (Macmillan Children’s Books)
My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins (who also contributes to this anthology), is a delightful, adorable and quirky little read.

It's the kind of book that proved to be exactly what I needed to kick start 2015 – and it’s a read that I’d recommend to anyone in search of a feel good, pick-me-up read.

Don’t be fooled though – while these stories can be described as being fluffy, they’re little shorts with plenty of substance and enough heart to soothe any angst-ridden soul.

There’s a little something in here for everyone; from contemporary and magic realism, to urban and paranormal fantasy, this collection of YA novellas is wonderfully diverse and beautifully written. 

Below, I share just a few quick thoughts about each novelette.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell – Ah, Rainbow Rowell. Can you ever do anything wrong in my eyes? I think not. 

What I loved about this story is how much it just reinforced my love for Fangirl. Rainbow is the queen of eccentrically cute dialogue and as with Fangirl, she absolutely nails the character voices in Midnights. Noel and Mags are made of epic adorableness.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link – Ooh, this one has got to be my favourite. I know, I’m surprised as well, as I was fully expecting to love the Laini Taylor one more.

Given that this is somewhat of a fractured fairy tale, which includes (if you squint) elements of The Snow Queen and (more obvious) a retelling of Tam Lin (one of my favourite Scottish ballads of all time), it hardly comes as a surprise that I’d adore this one.

Strangely enough, I was first put off with the rather stilted, staccato-like sentence structure, but the more I read, the more lyrical and beautiful this story and imagery became. I’ll definitely be revisiting this story over and over again.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña  - A fabulous interracial romance (male protagonist is half Mexican, female protagonist is white), by an author I haven’t heard of before? Talk about a fabulous new discovery. 

I loved the writing, I adored and felt for the characters (starving Mexican scholarship boy who loves music, meets wealthy girl desperately trying to get out of a relationship that’s going nowhere) and just generally fell in love with the flow of the story.

Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han - Oh what a bittersweet but exquisitely written little read. There’s just something about an awkward misfit pining for a boy she can’t have (in this case an elf, because elves aren’t allowed to be with humans), that makes my soul ache. 

Seriously though, why haven’t I read any of Jenny Han’s books before? I’ve heard loads of fabulous things about her, but have never gotten around to reading any of her other books, something I plan on rectifying as soon as possible.

It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins – Oh my gosh. This little short is made of all the fabulous things. Diverse characters, deep family themes AND  two protagonists that will make your face light up like the Christmas tree that features in this story. 

I’ve only read Anna and the French Kiss so far, but I reckon it’s time that I hurry up and get around to reading the rest of her books. This novella only served to remind me why I was so charmed with her writing first time around.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan – A Jewish Santa sneaks into the house of his boyfriend in order to surprise his boyfriend’s younger sister.

This short story is told from the perspective of our would-be Santa and has a rather melancholy touch in the sense that you, like the boyfriend (who remains nameless throughout the tale), feel very much like an outsider looking in. 

I really loved this one and actually wished that this one could have been longer.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black -  It’s Holly Black at her urban fantasy best in this short story about a hooved boy – a satyr if you really want to go into specifics – wished to life by one feisty girl with an extremely vivid and dreamy imagination. 

My favourite kind of character, really.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? – by Gayle Forman – Now this one was absolutely fabulous. I admit that I struggled with this in the beginning – I wasn’t particularly a fan of the writing – but then, what Gayle did next was awesome.

She flipped roles in every sense of the word. White, Jewish scholarship girl and a wealthy black boy? Not only does this go against every single stereotype about both the Jewish and Black community, but it’s done in an incredibly believable manner.

The chemistry between the two? So palpable.  It filled my heart with all the happy feels.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire – Ha! All the giggles were had with this one. How could it not when you have a borderline delinquent pining after the local pastor’s daughter? Super cute and filled with all manner of hilarious shenanigans.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White – The magical power of food is at the heart of this novella set in a small town off the beaten path. I loved that this introduced such a variety of colourful characters, and was genuinely moved by the family dynamics and themes of acceptance in Welcome to Christmas, CA.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – An account of two girls swapping plane tickets should be an improbable notion, but somehow  Ally Carter had me reading this one right until the end. 

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer  by Laini Taylor – Gorgeous, lyrical and all sorts of dreamy, this magical little tale is exactly the kind of story that one can expect from Laini. Her ability to weave and meld words together is an experience that leads the reader into a shimmering daze that is both dazzling and unsettling.

She juxtaposes images, plays with folk tales and sings it to the tune of her own, melodic voice. 

All in all, this anthology is a collection that is well worth the read, and one that I’ll definitely be rereading again and again.

Don’t wait for the next festive season to come around – get this one now; it’s really one you can and should read at any time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book talk: 5 Things I’d like to see more (or less) of in the literature industry this year and beyond (plus an international giveaway)

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Thank you so much to all of you who entered. I enjoyed reading your responses and found myself nodding along to all the points made (I'll be responding over the weekend to everyone's posts)! Congratulations goes to Bo Hi who has won books of her choice from the Book Depo!

I'll be having more giveaways coming your way soon, so look out for that!

So to kick off my blog for 2015, I thought I’d start off with a post about  the things I’d like to see more of in books this year  (along with a much-promised international giveaway). 

As a reader, my taste in books is constantly evolving. The way I read, how I interpret it and the aspects I look for in novels changes regularly. The more aware of societal issues I become, the more it drives me to seek out books that don’t adhere to the traditional tropes we’ve all become so accustomed to.

And the more I adapt, accept and embrace these changes, the more I realise that there is still a lot of headway to be made in the literature industry in terms of offering more than the standard fare (I hugely applaud the publishers who are taking more risks these days and hope that the others will follow suit eventually). 

Don’t get me wrong.

I adore a lot of what’s out on offer at the moment (even some of the clichéd works out there), but there seems to be this precedent that the existing models are satisfactory enough and that we shouldn’t mess with commercial commodities that work.

Frankly, this is not on.

I’m a big believer in change – and for me, it’s really heart-breaking to see some wonderful, off-beat reads being ignored because these works aren’t being as widely promoted.

And often, it’s these books that should be given a chance because they’re breaking barriers in terms of gender and racial diversity, openly tackling topics that are often considered taboo and subverting roles that have been defined by society’s terms.

In light of this, I’ve decided to share a list of things I’d love to see more publishers and readers take more (or less) of a chance on in the bookish trade.

1. More gender and racial diversity please.

Gender and race are not binary concepts. The sooner we can accept this, the better.  We need to have people of colour in books (and not delegated to playing the role of the side-kick/best friend please) and we need to give a voice to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender community (if there’s anyone I missed out, please let me know). 

Some authors refuse to write beyond anything they know (and some readers refuse to read anything that makes them uncomfortable), hence the fact that we often see the beautiful, white and skinny girl always falling for the hot, white male with a bad boy attitude (and that’s just one example).

Again, I’m not against this at all. I just want to see a book world in which the dominant race isn’t white, and one in which all the characters transcend the heteronormative standards everyone expects them to adhere to.

Most of all, I’d love to see publishers taking more chances on reads like these.

2. LGBQT characters that aren’t token characters or stereotyped

This is another one of my bug bears and brings to mind a book I read not too long ago in which the gay character was represented in an incredibly clichéd manner. In this book (I’ll rather not mention any names), the guy was portrayed as a highly and insultingly effeminate boy whose interests were relegated to: clothes, shopping, cross-dressing and being the therapist to his female best friend.

Do you see the problem here? 

I have no problem with the gay community who adore fashion, etc ; my problem is with the notion that gay people should be defined by this – which is what the author essentially did in this book.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender characters are humans, not caricatures.

Their likes, dislikes, beliefs and personalities are more than the sum of society’s assumptions about them. To portray them in a way that stereotypes them is incredibly dehumanising and I’m really tired of this.

Frankly, I know a lot of gay people and wouldn’t you know, some of them are mad about sports, not fashion.  What I’m saying here is that we shouldn’t make assumptions about what the LGBQT community are like – especially if your interactions with them have been very minimal.

Please stop treating them as if they all fit into a singular personality group.

3. More standalone YA novels

I love series, I really do, but it would be really nice to have books that don’t force us to wait years for the second, third or fourth instalment of the series.

It does get a little tiresome and sometimes it feels as if it’s just being dragged out for as long as possible, simply because it’s become an established franchise.

Books that work well as standalones in a series, however, are definitely more than welcome.

4. More female empowering one another stories, less cruel girl clichés please

I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of the bitchy and mean girl trope. I’m fed up with this idea of girls always having to compete over each other over a boy and no other reason than that. Isn’t it time for us to focus more on stories that solidifies and focuses on strong female friendships?

I find it very insulting that this girl-vs-girl-over-a-boy fight implies that this is what we’re all about. As if we exist for the sake of guys and as if it’s a competition to see who can claw whose eyes out over the hottest boy in existence.

Not only that, but it’s incredibly offensive to guys too –  this trope treats them as if they’re some kind of breeding stock prize to be won.  And frankly, I don’t view guys or girls this way, so why should this trope be used in this way?

I get that bullying is a tactic that is used, but that’s completely different to the mean girl/guy who is awful for the sake of being awful.

If you want to employ the use of a nasty character, why not give him/her a bit of a backstory; tell us what makes the character behave the way he/she does and whether he/she doesn’t want to be mean but can’t help it because of his/her past.  That’s a story that would be worth reading. 

Anything except the “leave-my-guy-alone-or-die” fight.

 5. Kill the love triangle. Please.

Seriously, there is no rule that says a story isn’t a story unless there’s a love triangle involved, so why, oh why, is every second book out there filled with one?

To be fair, I’m all for a well-written or creatively done one, but those are so rare to find, that my general frustration with love triangles actually outweighs my desire to seek out a beautifully drawn out tango for three.

Anyway, that’s just some of the things I’d like to see more of this year. This was originally going to be a ten things post, but my fingers ran away with me and this post ended up being so much longer than I thought it would be!

This is where you come in –

I’m giving one lucky international reader a chance to win 2 books of his/her choice. All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to see more or less of in the literature industry.

I’ll compile your responses and feature it in a follow up discussion post.

Giveaway is open internationally (please do make sure the Book Depository ships to your country before you enter) and runs until Sunday, 11 January.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Author guest post: Dreaming fiction by Sarah Noffke

Today, I’d like to welcome YA author Sarah Noffke to my blog today. Sarah, who is the author of The Lucidites Series,  is here to chat about a subject that everyone,  but writers in particular, can relate to.

Dreams  and fiction.

This topic couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as it’s the last day of 2014 and we’re about to step into 2015. A new year is always a chance for us to start on a blank slate – new plans, new dreams…  you get my drift.

Given that Sarah’s series revolves around a girl whose dreams are premonitions of things to come, I thought it would be great for her to expand a little on the subject of dreams. 

Before I hand over to Sarah, here’s some info on the Awoken, the first book in the series.
Synopsis for Awoken:
Around the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent.

And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she?

That’s the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?
Add to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Over to Sarah…

Dreams and fiction

“I had the strangest dream,” my friend told me the other day. “It was like I watching an action movie.”

“You should write it down,” I told her.

She scoffed at me. “It was just a stupid dream.”

If Stephanie Meyer had said that, then there would be no Twilight Series.

Dreams, the usually nonsensical ramblings of our subconscious, are often dismissed by dreamers upon waking.

“So an alligator strolled into the room wearing a pair of shoes he said was made from an old lady. Can you believe I dreamed that?”

A dreamer might remark to a friend. Laughs will be had and then the dream will fade into the hustle of the waking world where it may never surface again.

No one will argue that dreams are strange and maybe most of the time just some babbling we need to release to make room for more information.

However, the act of dreaming, the actual REM state, has been touted for maintaining plasticity and chemical balances within the brain.

So since the act of dreaming is so critical to our wellbeing, maybe we should entertain the idea that the product is also of value—in some cases at least.

As I mentioned before, Stephanie Meyer claims she awoke from a dream with the idea for a vampire novel.
She is not alone in drawing inspiration from her dreams for fictional works. Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelly, and Charlotte Bronte all credit dreams for parts of their stories.

Robert Louis Stevenson actually crafted the riveting novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from a nightmare. That’s one way to turn the tables on the usual aggravation that comes after bolting awake from a night terror.

Stevenson was reported to be quite irritated with his wife for rousing him from the dream which inspired the classic story. “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale,” he said to his wife (Balfour, Graham (1912). The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson II. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 15–6. Retrieved 28 December 2012). 

My research on this topic made me realize that what lines the shelves of libraries are not just novels, but dream journals.

Countless volumes were inspired by the strangeness that fills dreamers’ heads at night. Some authors have claimed a single dream inspired their entire story, whereas others only attribute a single character or idea.

Still the takeaway remains the same: the strangeness of dreams can be woven into the greatest of stories.
It does take a creative mind to catch a dream upon waking and spin it into something that is less ethereal and more suited for the average reader, but it has been done time and time again.

So maybe the next time you awake from a fantastical dream, before you laugh about it with a friend, write it down. Take it seriously. You might have captured a masterpiece as great as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

About Sarah
Sarah Noffke is the author of The Lucidites Series. She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie.

Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world.

If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found.

She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde.

Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.

Where you can find her online:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

And the winner of the YA book hamper competition is…


Hiya there my fellow book nerds

I’m so sorry for not posting these details any sooner. I’ve been focusing on wrapping up things at work before I go on leave (yay – tomorrow’s my last day for the year), which meant that my blog had to take a bit of a backseat.

I finally have some time though, so without further ado, the winner of the YA hamper giveaway is… Muneera, whose response to question posted on the giveaway is as follows:

The best book I've read this year is Landline by Rainbow Rowell. The male protagonist, Neal, is so dreamy. *sigh* he's grumpy and dislikes everything but, to paraphrase, loves his wife more than he hates everything else. Rainbow Rowell is a magical storyteller; her stories are engrossing and she writes the best female characters.

Congratulations! Just a little reminder about what you've won:

Please mail your details to me at tammybell78(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks to everyone else who entered the giveaway – and don’t worry, I’ve plenty of exciting things still in store, so look out for a new competition early in the New Year.

Huge thanks to the lovely Tarryn from Pan Macmillan SA who kindly sponsored this giveaway!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Double cover reveal: Greta and the Goblin King and Greta and the Glass Kingdom

Today, thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and Entangled Teen, I, amongst many other bloggers are hosting the cover reveal for Greta and the Goblin King and Greta and the Glass Kingdom.

I read the first book a year or so ago, and really enjoyed it, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Greta evolves in Greta and the Glass Kingdom.

Check out the gorgeous covers below!

Greta and the Goblin King 
(Mylena Chronicles #1)
Release Date: 12/11/12
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
While trying to save her brother from a witch’s fire four years ago, Greta was thrown in herself, falling through a portal to Mylena, a dangerous world where humans are the enemy and every ogre, ghoul, and goblin has a dark side that comes out with the eclipse.

To survive, Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young goblin king, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her will to escape.

But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. An ancient evil knows she’s the key to opening the portal, and with the next eclipse mere days away, every bloodthirsty creature in the realm is after her—including Isaac. If Greta fails, she and the lost boys of Mylena will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back...

Greta and the Glass Kingdom (Mylena Chronicles #2)
Release Date: February 2015
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
The sequel to the Hansel &; Gretel retelling Greta and the Goblin King ups the stakes of danger and romance. As conflict surges across Mylena, the tough Greta struggles to save those she loves.

Against all odds, Greta and the Goblin King miraculously survived the battle against the evil Agramon. Greta should be happy to be alive and ready to claim her place in Mylena by Isaac's side.

Yet nothing is the way she thought it would be. The battle against Agramon left a dark magick inside Greta that will eventually kill her. Isaac hasn't been the same since he almost went Lost. And there are whispers of a rebellion brewing throughout Mylena...

Determined to save Mylena from a bitter civil war, they travel to the mysterious Glass Kingdom to form an uneasy alliance with the deadly Faerie race. But when an unexpected disaster tears Greta and Isaac apart, she must make the journey on her own.

Along the way, she discovers a conspiracy stretching back to events she never thought she would have to revisit, betrayal from allies whose loyalty she never questioned, and an enemy vying to control all of Mylena.

Follow Greta into unexpected romance, explosive secrets, and shocking betrayals that will leave her and all of Mylena forever changed in the stunning second installment of The Mylena Chronicles.

About the Author
Chloe Jacobs is a native of nowhere and everywhere, having jumped around to practically every Province of Canada before finally settling in Ontario where she has now been living for a respectable number of years.

Her husband and son are the two best people in the entire world, but they also make her wish she'd at least gotten a female cat. No such luck.

And although the day job keeps her busy, she carves out as much time as possible to write.

Bringing new characters to life and finding out what makes them tick and how badly she can make them suffer is one of her greatest pleasures, almost better than chocolate and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

Author Links:
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Cover Reveal Organized by:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Win a YA book hamper featuring The Bane Chronicles, The Jewel, Fangirl, Deep Blue and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

So, with it being festive season, and my birthday month, I’ve teamed up with the fabulous Tarryn from Pan Macmillan to bring you this awesome giveaway.

In today’s giveaway, we’re offering one lucky reader a chance to win a hamper containing the following books: Cassandra Clare’s The Bane Chronicles, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (yup, for those who didn’t get a chance to win a copy of the book last time), Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

All you need to do is leave a comment telling me what the best book you’ve read this year is and you’ll be entered into this giveaway.

Bonus entries if you tweet or promote it in any form whatsoever.  Being a follower is not required, but it is always appreciated.

Giveaway closes on Sunday, 21 December. Winner announced on the same day.
Update: Extending it until tomorrow, 22 December.

This one’s open to South African residents only.

International lovelies, I haven’t forgotten about you – look out for a giveaway early in the New Year – there’ll be books and swag up for grabs!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book review: The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

An enchanting little novel of hope and apple tarts, mixed with splashes of magic realism.

Disclaimer: This review also appears on, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Published by Orion’s Children’s Books)
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s The Apple Tart of Hope  is one of the most delightful books I’ve read this year.  I’ve always been a huge sucker for quirky book titles, so when this one arrived on my desk, I absolutely knew I had to read it.

And what a captivating little read it turned out to be. 

With his penchant for baking the world’s most delicious apple tarts, Oscar Dunleavy has always been the kind-hearted, charismatic boy whom everyone loves and adores.

And no one is more aware of this than his younger brother, Stevie and his next door neighbour (who also happens to be his best friend), Meg.

So, when he goes missing and most of the town presumes that he’s dead, the only people who believe otherwise, and are determined to find out what happened to him, are Stevie and Meg. 

As days turn into weeks, and Meg starts giving into despair, it’s up to Stevie and a little thing called hope to remind her that in the magical world of apple tarts, there’s always, and I quote from the book jacket, “a crumb left.”

What they’ll come to learn is that things are not always what they seem, that everyone needs someone to believe in them when they’re taking that one extra step, and that friendship, loyalty and love are the very things needed to keep going when everyone else has already given up (It might seem cliché, but clichés are what they are because they’re true).

If you’ve been having a bad year and need a little pick-me-up novel, then the one book you should grab hold of is this one. 

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s Apple Tart of Hope is an exquisitely written book; one filled with so much beautiful prose and imagery, you’ll find yourself pausing at various intervals to just absorb her words.

To give you an example, I’m including this little quote from the below:

“When you grow up by the sea there's a kind of magic that never leaves you. The shimmery silver of salty mornings stays inside your bones. The rattling of windows on a winter night sharpens your senses. There's always power and deceptiveness in a flat blue sea. I'm a coast-town girl.  I know how quickly gentle water can turn into a foaming black mountain.”

Superb, isn’t it?

And if you think the writing is wonderful, just wait until you meet the characters.  From Oscar and Meg, to Stevie and Barney, Sarah has created a group of diverse characters who light up the pages of this novel with their radiant personalities.

Meg describes her best friend as someone who is kind of magic. And with his passion for saving people and baking apple tarts that can cure any malaise, it just doesn’t make sense that he would disappear.

So just what caused him to unravel? What would make a boy who has had everything to live for, disappear from the world?

The answer to that question?

A girl named Paloma; wicked, manipulative, nice-to-his-face-but-vicious-towards-him-behind-his-back, Paloma.

I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that she is probably one of the meanest girls I’ve come across in fiction. The lengths that she goes to in order to destroy a beautiful friendship (bordering on love), is absolutely shocking.

Meg and Oscar have always been close; so much so that she fights against having to go to another country for a few months with her parents. This plays a big role in the events that unfold, because Paloma uses this to her advantage; her systematic methods of breaking Oscar down showcasing the levels of self-loathing contained within her own self.

It’s a true testimony to the author’s writing ability when she creates characters that will leave you feeling discomforted and enraged by their bratty, entitled and vicious behaviour.

You’ll find yourself rooting all the way for Meg though; she’s a lovely and very sweet (without being saccharine) character. 

Her friendship with Stevie, Oscar’s younger and wheelchair-bound brother (a big yay for including a disabled character in the novel), is particularly heart-warming and I love how Sarah has written him – as if he’s a person whose disability does not define him. 

You often find authors including diverse characters as token roles, but Sarah has infused Stevie with a real, warm and very quirky personality that makes it impossible for you to dislike him.

A huge highlight of the story though is the friendship and budding relationship of Meg and Oscar.

It’s obvious that they share a special bond, and even though it’s tested severely throughout the novel, these two prove that a strong relationship can withstand the most malicious storms.

Do yourselves a favour – if you’re looking for a good bookish representation of hope, pick this one up; it will make you feel as if a torch has been lit up in the midst of your own dark circumstances.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blog tour (Book review): Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport + International giveaway

A magical, mystical and atmospheric retelling of Beauty in the Beast; the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport (published by Swoon Romance)

About the book:

When Elizabeth Ashton escapes her damaging city life and finds herself in the remote town of Hemlock Veils, Oregon, she is smitten by its quaint mystery; but the surrounding forest holds an enchantment she didn’t think existed, and worse, a most terrifying monster.

The town claims it vicious and evil, but Elizabeth suspects something is amiss.

Even with its enormous, hairy frame, gruesome claws, and knifelike teeth, the monster’s eyes speak to her: wolf-like and ringed with gold, yet holding an awareness that can only be human.

That’s when Elizabeth knows she is the only one who can see the struggling soul trapped inside, the soul to which she is moved.

Secretly, Elizabeth befriends the beast at night, discovering there’s more to his story and that the rising of the sun transforms him into a human more complex than his beastly self.

Elizabeth eventually learns that his curse is unlike any other and that a single murderous act is all that stands between him and his freedom.

Though love is not enough to break his curse, it may be the only means by which the unimaginable can be done: sacrifice a beauty for the beast.

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My review

What a fabulous and unexpected surprise this book turned out to be.

As someone who adores fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Hemlock Veils blog tour.  Besides, with books that describe the settings as being remote, quaint and enchanting, how could I not want to read this book?

I admit that I was a little nervous going into this book, as Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite stories, but luckily it soon proved that, despite some niggling issues, Hemlock Veils is a pretty wonderful adaptation of the much beloved classic.

Not only that, but Jennie Davenport effortlessly takes the bones of the story and moulds it into her own, providing the reader with a wholly unique experience that will linger with bibliophiles for days.  

Elizabeth is a pretty remarkable character.

Escaping from the hell that her life had become following the events that forced her to steal money from her employer, for the sake of her drug addicted brother, and which subsequently led to him being shot in front of her, Elizabeth finds herself stranded in the remote town of Hemlock Veils.

Luckily, one of the residents in the forest arrives to assist her with her car troubles, and grudgingly invites her to stay a night or two in town while she waits for her vehicle to be repaired. It’s while she’s walking with her would-be saviour, that they encounter the beast that has been terrorising the locals for years.

Of course, what Elizabeth encounters after a few brief, heart-stopping moments, is a beast that seems more human than monster.

Now it’s at this point that I did find the fact that she lost her fear of him so quickly to be rather unbelievable, but given the magic realism elements in the story, I do think that there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that this book requires.

Elizabeth eventually finds herself charmed by the quirky and hidden little town and its locals, and decides to settle down in order to start over.  It’s here where she encounters Henry Clayton, the cold and hardened businessman who owns the place.

Henry, for his part, refuses to make Elizabeth welcome and lets her know in no uncertain terms that she should leave. The two butt heads, argue and exchange plenty of heated words over the next few weeks, even during the moments when she tries to befriend him.

I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. It’s easy to guess why Henry wants to get rid of Elizabeth; and while Elizabeth is quick to connect the dots, the build up to their romance is a slow burn, one that takes a good time to develop.  

Henry, for his part, tries very hard to push Elizabeth away, preferring to stick to his beastly form when he goes on his nightly walks in the forest with Beth (by this time she’s established a friendship with the beast).

As a whole, Jennie’s characters are interesting, very well drawn and have flaws that add an even more interesting dynamic to it. The local characters are pretty interesting in their own right and enhance the feeling of community within the small town.

What stands out strongly is the fact that a lot of social commentary is also interwoven into the novel; including examples of rape culture and the highlighting of the dangers of mob mentality.

There’s also interesting mythology that forms part of this retelling, and it’s this that adds that extra unique make element to it. I won’t spoil it for you, but the folk lore that features in here only serves to make the ending so unconventional in comparison to the story that most of us are familiar with.

Overall, while I did find myself struggling to believe the way some things played out, I can truly say that this is a retelling that is definitely worth the read.  

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About the Author

Though Jennie Davenport was raised throughout the Midwest, she now lives in the little desert mining town of Bagdad, Arizona, where six guys beg for her constant attention: a husband, three young, blond sons, a German shepherd with a name much mightier than his disposition (Zeus), and a black cat named Mouse.

When she isn’t trying to run her home with as little casualties as possible, Jennie loves snuggling with her family, laughing with her friends, delving into brilliant entertainment of any vein, and playing outside.

Despite the way being a writer is in her blood, and the wheels of her writerly mind are constantly turning, Jennie likes to think that in another life, she would have been a Broadway star. Or an American Idol finalist.

Jennie lives for the fall, and not just because of her adoration for the NFL (Go Broncos!). In her perfect world, she would have the springs, summers, and falls of Colorado, and the winters of Arizona—someplace where the climate and weather would allow her to go on a trail run all year round.

But even though she prefers the pines and mountains, she is a devoted fan of all nature, from sandy beaches to woodsy cabins, and all are her greatest inspiration. She believes nature is one of the best healing remedies, with a magic all its own.

Jennie’s passion for writing is the way she survives, and is as vital to her sanity as oxygen, caffeine, food, and music. Even before she began writing it, well-told, original, and character-driven romance was always her weak spot. Add the paranormal or magical realism element and she may never make it back to reality.

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Check out the rest of the tour schedule by clicking on the image below.