Sunday, June 26, 2016

Author guest post: The top 10 fairytales and how they've influenced my life by Chantal Gadoury

It’s a pleasure to welcome YA author Chantal Gadoury to the blog today. Chantal first featured on my blog a while back when her first novel, Seven Seeds of Summer, a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth was released.

Chantal is clearly an author after my own heart because not only is she a fan of mythology, but with her latest novel Allerleirauh, which is a retelling of the Grimm’s tale with the same name (in some versions, this story is also known as All Fur or All Kinds of Fur), she explores her love of fairy tales, by putting her own spin on the book.

In today’s post she talks about the top 10 fairy tales that have influenced her most and shares her thoughts on how they’ve shaped her love of all things fairy tales.

Before I hand over to her though, here’s some information on the book. 

Allerleirauh by Chantal Gadoury

A King makes a promise to his dying wife to marry only someone with her golden hair. The King finds his eyes are turned by his maturing daughter's beauty.

Realizing her father's intentions, Princess Aurelia decides to sacrifice her life and escapes the Kingdom disguised in a cloak of a thousand furs.

Aurelia enters the Kingdom of Saarland der Licht and is taken under the wing of Prince Klaus.

Aurelia must face herself and her fears in her journey of self-discovery.

Add it to your TBR pile here.

Visit Chantal's Goodreads profile for more information about her.

Over to Chantal! Thanks for stopping by.
 
The top 10 fairy tales and how they've influenced my life

10. When I was younger, “Sleeping Beauty” was my favorite Disney movie. My uncle made a recording of it for me, so I could have my own copy since it hadn’t been on VHS for so long.

I watched and re-watched that movie so often that it started to have “tracking issues.” (Remember those days when you had to hit the tracking button on your remote control?)

“Sleeping Beauty” influenced my ideals of love, and how magical it could be. I might have even spent a majority of my life hoping I would meet a dashing Prince in the woods, just the way Briar Rose had in the movie.   

9. Who doesn’t love “Peter Pan”? Everyone wants to stay young and have fun. Growing up is just completely overrated, now that I, myself am grown up.

My Dad always was up for watching “Peter Pan” or the Hollywood version “Hook.” I was completely obsessed with this story when I was in what would be considered junior high (I went to school in a Jr/Sr High School, so we were all meshed up together).

For speech class, I read a chapter out loud and I would carry the novel around with me. When the 2003 live-action film came out in theaters, my sister and I went to see it.

The story of Peter Pan and Neverland has become to mean more to me now with the loss of my father. Sometimes I like to think to myself that he’s up there, second star to the right and straight on til morning.

Side note: I recently read a retelling of Peter Pan which was super fantastic. The book is called Unhooked and it's written by Lisa Maxwell. Read my review here.

8. This might not be a real “fairy tale” in the conventional way that we consider them, but “Phantom of the Opera” to me classifies as one. I was in 5th grade when I first discovered Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece and I was hooked from the Overture.

Some of my classmates were lucky enough to see it through chorus, while I discovered the story via books, the music and the Internet. I remember going to the library and checking out Gaston Leroux’s story, and trying to understand it at that age – I surely didn’t, mind you.

My classmates and I even made a “Phantom of the Outhouse” in which we performed for our classroom and teacher (I, of course, was Christine!).   

7. When I think of “Rapunzel” aka “Tangled,” I think about my last year in college. “Tangled” came out on my 22nd birthday:  November 24th 2010. 

I was a senior at Susquehanna University, where I was studying Creative Writing.

I think it was one of the first times I had a major wake-up-call about my life, and how far I had allowed Disney to influence my ideals of a relationship.

I had grown up with beautiful images of Ariel and Eric, or Belle and the Beast, and thought my life too, would be just as magical. When I saw Flynn and Rapunzel, I really thought I had finally found the “Disney couple” that me and my boyfriend-at-the-time could most relate to.

Flynn had a sense of humor and a certain way of saying things that was more relatable to our generation – to our day and time, rather than the classics that reflected more of their own current times.

I recall my boyfriend-at-the-time saying to me during a fight shortly afterwards, “Chantal, I’m not a Disney Prince. I’m *His Name*” – and I stopped. I seriously paused, hated myself and hated him for not being what I wanted him to be.

 I hated that he wasn’t ever going to be that Prince in the woods, or the Prince who woke me from a slumber. He wasn’t going to offer me a huge, beautiful library or search after me with a shoe. It was a rough time to realize what I had been doing for so long; giving people roles from Disney films instead of accepting them for who they truly were.

Needless to say, me and the boyfriend-at-the-time eventually parted ways and remained friends, and deep in my heart, he’ll always be that Flynn Rider who got away. 

6. I remember the first time I ever saw/heard of the story: “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” I was watching “The Storyteller’s” Hans the Hedgehog and The True Bride. It was a different version of a “Beauty and the Beast” – and I loved it!

There was a day that I came into the High School library and I saw a brand new book sitting on the desk. It looked like a fairytale book, and I was instantly interested in it.

What I didn’t know was that “East” by Edith Patou would become one of my favorite “retelling” novels. To this day, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is a story that I’d love to explore and possibly write my own version of.

It influenced me in my story of “Seven Seeds of Summer” – which is really a retelling of the mythology story of Hades and Persephone. (another ‘fairy tale’ that influenced me in my life, I guess – at least a bit.)  

5. I can’t do this entire thing without at least mentioning “Allerleirauh.” 

This story has been with me since my Dad bought me the VHS that had the Grimm Fairy Tale Classic version on it.

Since then, I’ve seen only a few versions that stuck with me, as much as the cartoon did. (Try “The Storyteller: Sapsorrow” – Whoa.)

For the longest time, I tried to find this story on the internet. I had no idea what it was called other than “The Coat of Many Colours” and only ever found the biblical story of Joseph and his coat. It wasn’t until I saw “Sapsorrow” (The Storyteller, yes again)on Youtube, that I took notice of a name: Allerleirauh.

As a child, I had been in love with the idea of dresses made of the sun, moon and stars, when I was playing “Castle” – you betcha bottom dollar, my gown was one of the three, and my Prince was stunned with awe with my beauty. Lol.

When I was in college, I tried to write a version of “Allerleirauh,” and at the time, it just wasn’t a story that was ready to be told, so I waited.

It was always in my plan to bring this fairy tale to life – it’s a powerful story, full of love and danger and some really hard topics that should be brought up in conversation.

 4. “Cinderella” is just one of those stories that I’ll always hold close in my heart. There is a quote that I often use in my life –“For with each dawn, she found new hope that someday, her dreams of happiness would come true” that really summarizes how I feel at times.

It’s a magical story of love and hope.

My love for Cinderella began quite innocently – what girl doesn’t dream of magical gowns, glass slippers and a dashing Prince?

When I saw the live-action version of Cinderella – I was simply transfixed with the story, the imagery and the acting. If there was a fairy tale brought to life, and simply perfect – this was the movie of all movies for me. To this day, “Cinderella” (2015) is simply, my favorite live-action film. 

It sends a great message of hope to me – to be a better version of myself despite the cruelty in the world. You can be the positive to someone’s life, even if you just try.

3. What is Christmas without a tree, presents and “The Nutcracker”? My mom first took me to see this ballet when I was a child, and for several Christmases, it was a tradition to do so. I became so in love with the show and ballet that I begged my mom to let me join ballet!

With a pair of soft ballet shoes and my Princess Aurora costume, I’d dance around the living room, listening to the melody of “The Nutcracker” with one of my Mom’s German Nutcrackers.

I’ve never been able to find a retelling of “The Nutcracker” or see a movie that I completely love – (maybe other than “The Nutcracker Prince” – an animation). The closest I’ve ever gotten to a real Nutcracker “performance” – other than the ones that my Mom took me too back in the day, was at day care.  

2. When I think of “The Little Mermaid”, I think of two events in my life. First – when I was sixteen (shocker) and online dated a boy from California (I was living in PA at the time,) and Second - Tumblr. Ariel has always been a character, much like Belle, that I felt like I related to.

It could be that “The Little Mermaid” was one of the first Disney movies I ever saw, and probably have seen more than any other. Ariel was also 16 when things happened to her, so I determined to be 16 and have things happen to me too (just without trying.)

When I was about to graduate college, I discovered “Tumblr,” and I found people like me – people who loved Disney. They loved Disney so much that they wrote AS the characters. If this wasn’t heaven on earth, I didn’t know what would ever classify as such.

I was actually lucky enough to befriend the coolest Flynn Rider RP’er on Tumblr, who knew a Prince Eric who was looking for an Ariel.

I never had RP’ed before in my life, but I thought “what the heck! I’ll try!” I tried, reached out to them, and they took my offer! I officially became “arielinthegrotto.tumblr.com” Writing as this character made me realize parts of myself that I had never known. I was truly able to “find myself.” I found a strength, a person, a personality – that I had never truly been able to embrace, until I found Tumblr. It was liberating to say the least. Ariel became a personality to me that I always wanted to be, just like Cinderella.  

1. “Beauty and the Beast” is definitely one of my favorite stories. I can recall the illustrations to picture books that I once read as a child, full of bright colors and peacock feathers.

I spent time in my mother’s lap, watching the movie over and over again. When I was older, I read and reread Robin McKinley’s “Rose Daughter” and “Beauty” to the point that the High School Library’s copy almost became mine!

During my 6th grade year (after missing Phantom of the Opera) I was able to go see the Broadway show of “Beauty and the Beast” in NYC, and the cherry on top was seeing it with my Mom.

I think it’s pretty obvious I feel most relatable to Belle because of her love for books. She is really the Princess for all the book worms. This story has always been with me because of how easily I could slip myself in Belle’s shoes. I lived in a small town and felt misunderstood. I read for fun and didn’t take enjoyment in the things that the other children did.

I was also fat/chubby and by default, that meant I was picked on for my size. I felt like the outcast. I knew how it felt to be the Beast and how it felt to be Belle and I took comfort and hope in the future someday that someone would look at me and see what was truly on the inside; a girl quite capable of loving someone.

What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? And which fairytale would you still love to see being retold? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The 2016 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway children’s book awards judges blog tour: Q & A with the panel of judges

Today I’m thrilled to be part of a blog tour that’s just a little different to the one I normally partake in: The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway judges book tour.

For those who may not be aware, the CKG book awards is one of the biggest book awards in the UK, and in the run up to announcing the winner, and as part of the tour, a few of us have been given the opportunity to grill some of the judges about the awards, the books that have been nominated and how the awards have influenced their reading choices over the years.

Special thanks to Matt for allowing me to be part of the tour!

The winner will be announced on Monday, 20th June, so keep your eyes and ears peeled to newsfeeds everywhere.

Thanks to all the judges who took time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions!

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious awards given to authors and illustrators.

What do you think it is about these awards that sets it apart from others?


The awards are chosen by professionals within the field of Librarianship, unlike many other awards every book is read and reread by judges and the judges undergo rigorous training before they take up the position. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
   

There is a wonderful list of books that have been shortlisted for the award this year.

What do you think it is about these specific books that stand out more than others?


The standard of publications generally this year has been high. Choosing the shortlist was not easy and I can honestly say that the list is the strongest ever, in my experience.

Each and every title on both lists are all unique style wise. I have to be honest here, usually for me there are one or two titles that stand out ahead of the pack, but this year each and every one could be the winner. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges.


Which book do you hope will win and why?
 

I always hope the right book wins – this book will be chosen by judges under rigorous conditions of judging.

To choose a lesser book would weaken the awards and bring them in to disrepute, this has never happened and I trust in the judges to always make the right decision! Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
 
I’m afraid I have signed the Official Secrets’ Act on that one! Each book is a strong contender because of the outstanding quality of the writing.

They all have memorable characterisation, intricate plotting and thought provoking themes. Tanja Jennings CKG Judge for YLG Northern Ireland.


Are there any specific books that that aren’t on this list that you wish were nominated for the award?

And why do you feel that book deserves the recognition?
 

As a Librarian who is a member of CILIP I have a personal nomination so I can put forward my particular favourites at that stage. So there are no books I wish had been included on the list that weren’t there.  Tracey Acum, CKG Judge for YLG Yorkshire & Humberside.


Let’s talk about diversity in books.

With the growing demand for minority and marginalised groups to be more prominently featured in books, how do you think the shortlisted books fair in terms of meeting that criterion?
 

Diversity is not on the list of criteria for either of the awards and I think that authors and illustrators may find it insulting if their gender, ethnicity or background was picked up as a reason for the selection of their work rather than their artistic or authorial excellence. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.


The Awards can obviously only reflect what is published and at present the criteria do not take into consideration diversity. However I believe the Awards often reflect diversity and life and this year is no exception.

The Carnegie features a book whose main character is deaf, two books with a homosexual relationships and a book with conjoined twins. I think there’s still some work to be done on reflecting diversity in picture books, and I guess the shortlist reflects this. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges.


Finally, has the CKG awards influenced your reading choices over the years? And if so, in what way?

Before becoming a judge, I used to always make sure I read the winning Carnegie book, as well as the shortlists. 

Working in a school library I felt it was important to know what was out there for young adults, and the Carnegie lists certainly provided a wide range of quality, contemporary fiction. Jennifer Horan, CKG Judge for YLG Scotland


Thursday, May 26, 2016

TBR spotlight: 5 books I’ve recently added to my Goodreads

So I've decided to start a new feature in which I spotlight a list of books I've discovered and added to my TBR pile. This list will be feature a series of books that will be both old and new, and will sometimes even be themed.

Let's face it - much as we try to keep up with all the publisher catalogues, social media updates and publishers' newsletters, there will always be books that we haven't yet discovered.

What’s more is that for me this will also be a great way to remind me of the books I have for review, that which I’ve added to my TBR pile a while back and is a great way of highlighting books I haven’t gotten around to reading just yet.

I'm sure many of you can relate to the feeling of not being in control of your to-be-read piles, so feel free to join in and compile your own lists.

This week’s focus is on books I’ve added to my to-be-read pile over the last two weeks or so.  In no particular order, here are the top 5 books I’m really excited about. 

Nightfall by Jake Halper and Peter Kujawinski

Genre: YA dystopian, horror, suspense

How I discovered this title: I stumbled upon this title on Netgalley actually. Nightfall was published last year, but the paperback edition is out this year and Bonnier publishing (the UK publishers of this book) have listed this as a title that's available to be requested. I’ve always been a fan of survivalist stories and this one looks like it has that it spades!

About the book:

After fourteen years of Day comes fourteen years of Night. Be sure not to get left in the dark.

On Marin's island, sunrise doesn't come every twenty-four hours - it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold. The shadows are growing long. The dark is rising. And soon it will be Night.

The eerie Evening sunset is causing the tide to begin its slow roll out hundreds of miles, and so Marin, along with her twin brother Kana and the rest of the islanders, must frantically begin preparations to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night. But first the house must be made ready for their departure. Locks must be taken off doors.

Furniture must be arranged just so. Tables must be set as if for dinner. The rituals are bizzare - unnerving, even - but none of the adults will discuss why things must be this way. And then just as the ships are about to sail, the twins' friend Line goes missing. Marin and Kana know where he has gone, and that the only way to rescue him is to do it themselves. And surely the ships will wait?

Because Night is falling. Their island is changing. And something is stirring in the dark.

You can add it to your TBR pile here.

Wintersong by S Jae Jones

Genre: YA, fantasy, romance, retellings, modern adaptations

How I discovered this title: Firstly, how gorgeous is this book cover?

I totally swooned when I saw this on a fellow book blogger’s Instagram feed. Naturally I had to go and do a little research and lo and behold, it’s inspired by two of my favourite works of film and literature respectively; those being Labyrinth and The Goblin Market.  That is pretty much what sealed the deal for me. Just a pity we have to wait until 2017 until it’s published. Never have I sulked so hard when I saw book publication date. *sobs*


About the book:
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says.

Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

You can add it to your TBR pile here.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Genre: NA, YA, crossover appeal, fantasy, fairy tales, retellings

How I discovered this title: I’ve actually seen this book pop up on my timeline a couple of times but have somehow always ignored it. I’m now currently reading an anthology of short stories in which one of Kat’s stories – Painted Birds and Shivered Bones – features. It’s this short story that has made me fall in love with her writing and world-building, and has finally lead me to adding her first fully published novel to my list of books I need to read asap. Check out the synopsis below.

About the book:
Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now.

As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

You can add it to your TBR pile here.

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Genre: YA, mystery

How I discovered this title: Having read and loved Kim Savage’s After the Woods, a book about two broken girls who deal with the aftermath of a kidnapping in two very different ways
(I’m currently working on some questions for her, so look out for a Q & A and giveaway of this title in the near future), Kim became an author to keep an eye on. And boy, am I glad I’m following her because 2017 will see her releasing a new psychological thriller featuring suicide, dangerous lies, infatuation, messed up characters and a cover that is super, super creepy.  I can’t wait.

About the book:
In Beautiful Broken Girls, Mira sends Ben on a post-mortem quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched — notes that explain why she and her sister, Francesca, drowned themselves in the quarry lake. How Ben interprets those notes has everything to do with the way he was touched, once, by a bad coach years ago.

But the truth behind the girls’ suicides is far more complicated, and has to do with a dangerous infatuation, a deadly miracle, and a crushing lie. Beth Clark’s cover is delicately spooky, but the teens in the novel are not delicate. Rather, they love fiercely, protect one another unwaveringly, and risk everything to speak the truth. In the way that the hand on the cover hovers near the heart, there is a mystical secret at the heart of Beautiful Broken Girls that I cannot wait to share with readers."

You can add it to your TBR pile here.

As Red as Blood by Salla Simukka

Genre:
YA, crime thriller

How I discovered this title:
This one I’ve seen on both Netgalley and Twitter. From the Scandinavian crime thrillers that I’ve read before (with their no holds barred approach to descriptive scenes), I’d be really keen to see how this one plays out. Also, Bookseller has recently announced that this is being adapted for big screen, so we’ve got another YA series to look forward to.

About the book:
Seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson is hardly your average teenager. She lives by herself in the city of Tampere, Finland, and has a firm rule to mind nobody's business but her own.

But that rule is put to the test when she happens upon five hundred washed euro notes hanging up to dry in her school's darkroom, and it is shattered once Lumikki realises who owns them.

Caught in an increasingly tangled web of deception, corruption and danger, Lumikki finds herself navigating the Tampere's dark underbelly in the search to expose its shocking connection to the international drugs trade. Lumikki is smart, but is she smarter than a master criminal? Can she bring down the infamous 'Polar Bear' - or will she become another one of his victims?

The first part of a thrilling new Nordic crime series, AS RED AS BLOOD will have you on the edge of your seat until the last page is turned... and then some.

You can add it to your TBR pile here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Book review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

A feisty and adventurous young heroine’s very existence is threatened by her father’s growing obsession with the past.

Disclaimer: This review originally appeared on Women24.com. A copy of the book can be bought from Raru.co.za.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (published in 2016 by Hot Key Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishers)

Nix Song is a member aboard The Temptation – a time travelling ship that is capable of travelling to various places in the world at any given time, provided that there is a map of their intended destination and a specific date attached to the aforementioned map.

Using magical means of navigating, Nix and the odd rag-tag crew (of which her father is captain) she’s part of, travel from continent to continent, gathering maps, information and mythological artefacts containing magical properties.

For Nix, time travelling is a way of life; it runs in her blood and flows through her veins.  The only thing that’s getting in her way of really embracing everything she loves about time travelling, is her father’s obsession with a specific date and place – those being 1868 and Honolulu, Hawaii respectively.

The reason for this?  It was the date and place where Nix’s mother died. When they get their hands on a map that might change everything, Nix’s entire existence hangs in the balance. And with no choice but to help, Nix not only risks disappearing entirely, but may just lose everyone – particularly everyone she’s come to love.

Blending a combination of fantasy, history, cartography and mythology, The Girl from Everywhere is a novel that brims with adventure, features a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and even includes a hint of romance.

Think piracy, epic heists and bouts of adventurous shenanigans that border on the south side of sanity, and you’ll pretty much have this book covered.

Frankly, I was utterly spellbound and enchanted by this book.

Heidi Heilig has not only created a cast of characters that will appeal to travel-mad souls, but she’s effortlessly woven meticulously researched detail into her writing, giving this novel an added dimension that will appeal to both fans of historical and fantasy fiction alike.

From the writing, to the characters and world building, this book is a novel that will captivate you right from the start. In fact, we’re barely halfway into the year and I’m already considering this one of my top favourites for 2016.

Full marks to Heilig for creating a cast of characters that are diversity-inclusive, compelling and above all, fiercely spirited.

Nix is the kind of protagonist I long to see in most novels – she’s a gutsy and adaptable risk-taker that takes charge in situations that most people would balk at. She’s the perfect combination of uncertain vulnerability (because of her fate) and voracious outspokenness – attributes that’s just so marvellous to see being so celebrated.

The lushly detailed mythological and historical aspects of this book are exquisite and meticulously crafted throughout the novel and will even enchant readers who aren’t normally fans of books with this kind of detail.

All in all, The Girl from Everywhere is the perfect armchair read for when you can’t afford to travel anywhere. Believe me, after this, you’ll feel as if you’ve been to a thousand places – and all in the space and time of reading one book.

Monday, May 2, 2016

International giveaway: Win a copy of the US edition of Cecilia Ahern’s Flawed + a temporary tattoo (now closed)

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Denisa who has won a copy of Flawed as well as a temporary tattoo. Stay tuned for more giveaways!
 
So recently, the lovely folk from HarperCollinsUK and JB publishers sent me a lovely prize pack of books consisting of Cecilia Ahern’s debut YA dystopian fiction novel, Flawed. 

Since I’ve read, loved and reviewed it - and since I’ve got spare copies - I’m offering readers a chance to win a copy of the US edition, along with a temporary tattoo. 


A photo posted by Tammy (@tammy_bookbell) on


I’ll also be doing a giveaway for a signed copy of the UK edition, but that will be as part of the Women24 book club newsletter and will be open to South African residents only. More details on that to follow (if you don’t want to miss out on the chance to win that signed copy, you can sign up for the newsletter here ).

In the meantime, international lovelies, if you’d like to win a copy of Flawed, along with a temporary tattoo, all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which underrated dystopian series/standalone novels you’d recommend to lovers of the genre and why.

Giveaway closes 25th May.

Being a follower is not required, but it is always appreciated. You do score bonus entries if you tweet about the giveaway.

Good luck to all!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book talk: Do you deserve that happily ever after ending?

[Disclaimer: This originally appeared as a Women24 book club newsletter. If you'd like to read more of these columns, and stand a chance of winning our book club's top 10 books, you can sign up here.]

A few years ago, Charlaine Harris, author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries fame (True Blood for those who’ve been following the television of adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse books) received death threats following the ending of the popular book series.

Readers were unhappy with the way the book ended. Many felt the plot was lacking, the characters’ actions nonsensical and that the ending came out of left-field.

I won’t go into detail about why the ending in particular was so upsetting (if you’re really curious and don’t mind spoilers, you can mail me
and I’ll tell you), but what I can tell you is that I do, to a certain extent, understand why people got so upset.

Not enough to warrant all that hatred, but I get it.

When you spend time invested in a book, particularly a book series, you develop a relationship with it.

You formulate speculations about where the character and story arc is going and you develop strong ideas about which character should end up with who (depending on whether or not the story has a romantic element attached to it) and you feel like the author sets the plot in a way that will at least give you an idea of how the book will end.

When you end up with something that contradicts almost everything in the previous instalments in the book, well, obviously readers are going to have a lot to say.

I have been on the receiving end of book endings not concluding the way I was hoping they would. In the beginning, this would bother me immensely. I wasn’t used to my thoughts not lining up with that of the authors and freely admit to that having a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I mean what’s the point if there’s no happy ending for at least one of the characters, right?

These days, as my reading evolves, in terms of genre, narrative preference and format, I find that I’m a lot more open-minded when authors subvert tropes and sacrifice popular opinion for the sake of an ending that’s thought-provoking and one that fits with the story that they wanted told, not the one that we always expect.

I’ve become a huge fan of open-ended conclusions. The endings that aren’t endings at all, but rather give you a hint of more beginnings. For me, those kind of finales allow the readers to think beyond the now and to make up our own new possibilities for the characters in the stories.


Unresolved endings have also become quite popular with me.

In fact, my latest read, After the Woods, left me with no clear resolution and mixed feelings about the protagonists. Yet, I found myself strangely okay with this.

And the reason is simply this: sometimes it’s those books with their unclear endings that have you thinking about them the most. 

After the Woods?

It’s a perfect example of a book that still has me wondering what I’d do differently if I were in the shoes of the characters featured in the book.

What’s your take on this?

Do you prefer happily-ever-after endings or are you more open to conclusions that don’t quite fit the mould and what are some of your best and worst novel endings?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book review: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

Torture, branding and extreme bullying set in a society that places its value on perfection, is the focus of Cecelia Ahern’s (bestselling author of P.S. I Love You) new book.

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24.

A copy of the book can be purchased via Raru.co.za.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (published in 2016 by HarperCollins UK)

Trigger warning: Torture

Imagine living in a world where everything you do is under scrutiny and one bad decision, lie, action or choice could result in you being branded as an outcast. And imagine if this society places the ultimate standard of living in the upholding of morals, ethics and general conduct of its citizens.

This is the world that our protagonist, Celestine, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, inhabits.

Here, you’re either model-perfect or you’re flawed, and the price and punishment for being the latter is living a life enforced with rules and regulations.  It’s one where public shaming is a blood-sport and one that means living on the fringes of society if you’re ever found guilty of so much as a lie.

Mostly, it’s a life where you wear imperfections as physical brands on your body.

Celestine prides herself on following The Guild’s rules and regulations. In fact, she’s the poster girl for those brainwashed into believing a system that judges others for being imperfect (how the irony escapes all of these people is rather questionable, but the fact that Cecelia Ahern somehow makes this work is a testament to just how good her writing is).

It’s rather hard not to be when you’re dating the guy whose father who heads up The Guild – the system established as judge, jury and executioner of those deemed to be Flawed.

And yet, when Celestine finds herself on the wrong side of the law, for an act borne out of compassion, everything she knows about the structure she believes comes crumbling down.

Because not only will she make history as the person to receive the most brands for being flawed, she’ll also become the one outcast who sparks a new movement and uprising.

When I finished this novel, the first question I asked myself was this: Was Cecelia Ahern kicking puppies when she wrote this book?

Because a) this book is dark – brilliant, brutal, but dark and b) I’m not even sure if it’s her writing the book because this is the author of those lovable rom-coms that we’re talking about here.

Yes, you heard me.

The bestselling author of P.S. I Love You has written a dystopian fiction – one that, much to my surprise, I managed to read in one sitting.

This book pulls no punches when it comes to social commentary. Cecilia manages to make sly digs at our obsession with celeb and pop culture, highlighting the ridiculous pedestals we place them on, and the need to chase perfection because of that obsession.

In Cecilia she’s created a character that completely buys into a gimmick of a system that’s so patently absurd, it’s at once frustrating and revolting. She’s hard to like, but eventually, does gain the reader’s sympathy as the book progresses.

When the blinkers come off for Celestine, she has to learn to live with both her physical imperfections and “flaws” (gosh guys, the branding scene in this book is definitely not for the faint-hearted) as well as her prejudiced views against the people who’ve been branded for their “infractions.”

This book is not an easy read, but it’s one that makes you question the emphasis that society places on what it means to be perfect.  It’s a clear parallel in the sense that so many of us are fooled into believing that we have to look a certain way or adapt a lifestyle in order to be accepted, and one that teaches us to not take everything or everyone we see or know, at face value.

Read it. It’s definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book spotlight & giveaway: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead


In today’s post, I’m highlighting The Glittering Court, the fabulous new book from bestselling author Richelle Mead. The book was released earlier this week and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

To celebrate the release, the publishers are offering readers a chance to win a hardback copy, as well as 25$ Sephora gift card. Below you can also find more information on the book. 

Title: THE GLITTERING COURT
Author: Richelle Mead
Pub. Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.

"Brilliant and original, Mead’s new series starts off with a bang and will leave readers on the edge of their seats until the very end." —School Library Journal


For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure.

To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric.

One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.
 
About Richelle: 

Richelle Mead has written over twenty-five novels for teens and adults.

She is the author of the international #1 bestselling Vampire Academy series and its spinoff series, Bloodlines.

Her recent standalone novel, Soundless, draws upon Chinese mythology and history, and her forthcoming series, The Glittering Court, follows the adventures of girls destined for arranged marriages in a fantasy world inspired by colonial America.

A lifelong reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses to wear on tour.

She is a self-professed coffee addict, works in her pajamas, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is hard at work on her next novel.

Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a hardcover of THE GLITTERING COURT & a $25 Sephora Gift Card. US Only.

Ends on April 15th at Midnight EST!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Blog tour: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern's top 5 YA novels





Today I’m very excited to be part of the global tour for Cecilia Ahern’s debut YA novel. As you probably know, Cecilia is no stranger to the world of literature.

With a good series of best-selling rom-coms behind her back, she’s not only proven to be one of the most popular authors in the world, but some of her books have also been made into movies – most notably, P.S. I Love You.

This time around, Cecilia ventures into YA dystopian territory with her new novel Flawed, which is absolutely brilliant, by the way (I read it in one sitting and my review will be up later this week).

In today’s post, I’m sharing a list of Cecilia’s top 5 YA novels, but before I do, here’s some information about the book. 

About the book:
Celestine North lives a perfect life.

She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned.

She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished.

And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Add it to your TBR pile

Cecilia’s Top 5 YA Novels

Huge thanks to publishers (Jonathan Ball, HarperCollinsUK) for allowing us to be part of the tour.

Go out and grab yourselves a copy of this book. It’s dark, edgy and incredibly brilliant.

Follow the #PerfectlyFlawed hashtag on Twitter to keep up to date with all the blog posts being featured on this tour.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What would you do if the bubble you’ve lived in all your life, is no longer big enough to contain all that you hope for?

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (first published in 2015 by Corgi)

Purchase a copy on Raru.co.za

Everything, Everything is a book that has been talked about and celebrated worldwide and it’s easy to see why.

The book ticks all the right boxes in terms of diversity, concept and beautiful writing.  And yet, for all the fuss that’s been made about the book, I found myself merely liking it, as opposed to falling madly in love with it the way the rest of my fellow bookish peers have.

Well, someone’s got to be the black sheep amongst the glow-y reviewers. Guess it just so happens to be my turn.

Oh, there was the beginning flutterings that I assume most people feel when they first fall in love, but the more I read the book, the more I realised that sometimes you need more than a suspension of disbelief to be wholly invested in a novel.

That, and the fact that this book has been hyped to the max, has probably not helped its cause.  I was promised fireworks; what I got was the mere flickering of a lone sparkle in the dark of the night.

But, having said that, Everything, Everything is not an altogether bad book.

In fact, one of the best aspects of this book is that it has a pretty jaw-dropping plot-twist - one that I totally did NOT see coming.  The dialogue is also filled with lots of banter, snark and witty rapport between the characters and the format of the book is an utterly delightful razzmatazz filled with quirky asides that will appeal to bibliophilic nerds at heart.

It’s cute, quirky and adorable and threads together themes of loss and love, abandonment and discovery. In short, it’s a book that will appeal to many and one that has already gained a massive fan base.

So, just what is Everything, Everything about?

Well, imagine if you suffered from a disease that affected your immune system so badly that even walking outside could potentially kill you. And imagine if you had to spend all of your days observing the world from a contained room, in a sterile house with just you, your mother and your designated nurse.

This is essentially the sum of Maddy’s life.

When the new neighbours move in, Maddy can’t help but be intrigued with the boy next door and his family. And Olly, well, Olly can’t help but be intrigued with the girl who never goes outside. So what do two youngsters, each with their own family intrigues, do to communicate?

Cue IM messages, e-mails, window screen messages and soon you have a budding and epic romance in the making.

Here’s my thing though: I get that young love is supposed to be this impetuous, heady and tempestuous wave of unending romantic feelings, but I, as much as I liked the characters, just simply wasn’t on board with the way this romance played out.

To me it felt the intensity of the emotions experienced were at odds with the time frame in which the two of them got to know each other. I’m not dismissing the fact that teens fall passionately in love at all – quite the opposite, really – but in this instance, I felt like the execution of the romance was a little too over the top to be sincere.

The actions of Maddy towards the middle and end of the book in a specific situation (being vague, sorry) only cemented this fact for me.

While I certainly liked Olly and Maddy, I didn’t particularly LOVE them or find them very memorable. There’s nothing about them that really stood out for me, and I guess, for me, well, Maddy could have just has well fallen in love with some random dude as much as anyone else.

And that, in essence is the whole problem that I had with this book. I know plenty of people who absolutely adored this book (and I’m really happy they love it in a way that I couldn’t), but the major points in this book was just something I couldn’t ignore, thus downgrading the book from a love, to a mere like.

However, don’t let my cynicism put you off. Perhaps I’m too jaded to appreciate the love story of this (I do wish there was more focus on the medical aspects of her illness, although I also kind of understand why it was so vague), but hopefully you’ll have more luck with this book than I did.