Monday, October 20, 2014

Book review & giveaway: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Meet and become best friends with the book that was written for every single person who’s ever obsessively geeked out over some form of pop culture.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Pan Macmillan 2014)
Welcome to the Fandom.

It’s a place where the world you created may not belong to you, but in which you get to change the rules in a way that leaves you with the freedom to be in control.

For most people, the fandom is a treasure palace that encourages the inner geek in everyone to embrace living life vicariously through the eyes and stories of protagonists that are, in many cases more real to us than the people we’re surrounded by on a daily basis.

Being a fangirl/fanboy of anything pop culture related often leaves us feeling as if we have one foot in this expanded fantasy, while the other foot forces us to maintain a sentient presence in our corporeal world.

As someone who considers herself to be the ultimate shipper of note, I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that it’s so much better to squee over your favourite non-canon (or canon) pairing from your favourite fiction novel/tv series/etc, than it is to deal with daily life skill tasks that require effort, confidence and willingness to endure whatever life throws your way.

Which is exactly why you’ll find yourself rooting for and absolutely adoring the quirky, clever and socially awkward Cath in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Do yourself a favour – if you’re as chronically awkward and socially challenged as I am, then please give this book a read.

Not only is Fangirl relatable on so many different levels, but it’s quite possibly the quirkiest and most adorable book I’ve read this year.

The book kicks off when we’re first introduced to Cath. It’s her first day at Uni and Wren, her identical twin, wants no part of the two-peas-in-the-pod closeness that used to define their bond. 

With Wren branching out on her own – partying it up, meeting boys and making new friends, Cath finds trying to adjust to University incredibly hard.

With her penchant for being a fangirl (and fanfiction writer) of a popular book series  -which is totally an ode to Harry Potter - Cath much prefers to  spend all of her time online.

In spite of her intentions to remain friendless (and to hide from the rest of the world and avoid going down for dinners in the main hall), two of the most unexpected people (the kind of people Cath would normally avoid at all costs) dive headlong into her life, upsetting her carefully planned and ordered existence.

What follows is a journey full of bumps, laughs, awkwardness and complete and utter geekdom as we watch how Cath unfurls and transforms from person-allergic-to-anyone-else-except-for-her-sister-and-father, to learning how to embrace and accept the new challenges and experiences that are thrown her way.

This book is just so utterly, utterly delightful.

I’ve come across many a book character where I’ve felt I could relate to aspects of their personality, but if there’s one book that I feel encapsulates the sheer hell of going to University for the first time – and all the timid, frightening and feel-so-small-and-new-I-could-crawl-into-a-hole-and-disappear feelings that go with it – then it’s this one.

Even thinking about it now makes me cringe a little (although I should add that I’m still the awkward penguin today that I was back then).

Rowell just has this way of creating a dialogue that’s filled with such sharp, witty  and hilarious moments that you’ll either spend most of your time squealing with glee, or having the laughter  being surprised out of you.

Her characters are infinitely loveable (despite the fact that you’ll want to shake some sense into them every now and then), the incorporation of fanfiction (or in this case, Fanfixx) is made of awesome and the sister-sister bond between Cath and Wren will fill you with all the fuzzy feels.

Their relationship is one that certainly goes through a tough transition as it’s clear that they’re both dealing with issues and coping in different ways.

With college courses taking their toll and Cath’s unwillingness to immediately step outside of her shell, it’s only a matter of time before things come to a head. And when it does (because life has a way of jack-knifing you in the stomach sometimes), both Cath and Wren need to decide whether their bond is strong enough to pull them back together again.

And this is yet another reason I love this book. Rowell’s depiction of the relationship between the twins is one of the best aspects of the novel. 

Many of us who have siblings will understand what it’s like to fight, rage with said siblings and in the very next heartbeat, love the living daylights out of them. 

Rainbow understands that and she uses it to create a relationship that’s both realistic and full of well-developed depth.  

Some of the most tender moments of the book occur when Wren and Cath are together.

And speaking of Cath, she really doesn’t give herself enough credit for being the amazing girl that she is; she’s funny (without trying to be), snarky and adorably sheepish (when she’s not being awkward). 

It’s only when Reagan (the fabulously aggressive new roommate who takes it upon herself to befriend Cath)  and Levi - the lanky, adorable and utterly crush-worthy boy who keeps invading her space – show up in her life, that Cath finally begins to see that there’s more to life than fanfiction.

And that maybe embracing new things does not mean having to give up her entire identity. And isn’t that something we all can relate to?

Do yourself a favour  and pick this book up. It’s the cutest book you’ll read this year.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!
Thanks to the lovely, lovely folk from Pan Macmillan South Africa, I’m giving one lucky reader a chance to win a signed copy of Fangirl, as well as a Fangirl necklace. 


All you have to do is leave a comment telling me about the latest book you’ve been fangirling about.

Giveaway will run up until the 31 October and is open to South African residents only
(Sorry lovely internationals, I’ve got another comp planned in the near future, so look out for that).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mini review: Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog. For this section of my blog, I usually feature reviews of books that don’t really require them – books bought, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books I’ve taken out at the library.

Because they’re not must-review books, my format of these mini reviews differ in that I don’t work the summary into my review in my own words; instead, I feature the Goodreads summary, followed by a few thoughts on my reading experience.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen.

Lock & Key Summary from Goodreads (Puffin Books)

"Ruby, where is your mother?"

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around.

A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true.

So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive?

And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

My thoughts:

Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful read.

Sarah Dessen's ability to write stories with so much raw and emotive realism is something to behold and it’s one that only serves to remind me exactly why she's one of my favourite authors.

Funnily enough, my experience with this novel is pretty much a metaphor for this very book.

I initially picked this up a few months back, only to toss it aside after a few pages in because it - believe it or not - bored me.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm at the library, where once again, I waffled over this book.

Should I pick it up or not? Take it or leave it?

At the last moment I decided to eventually take the book out after all, deciding that maybe I was just in a bad mood the last time and that I should give this one a second chance.

And that is how I ended up reading and falling in love with this book second time round.

Lock and Key is essentially a novel about learning to come to terms with change.  Now I know that it sounds rather trite when put in such simple terms, but bear with me while I try to articulate my thoughts.

It’s a book about abandonment and it’s a book about deciding whether or not to adapt and stay or run for the hills.

It’s a novel that’s about taking chances on people when you’ve never had anyone betting on and believing in you and it’s one about accepting that some truths are never what you expect them to be.

Mostly though, Lock and Key is the story of how one girl learns that sometimes everyone - regardless of which side of the track they come from - needs a little help.

Ruby Cooper has every reason to expect the worst.

Her trust does not come easily,  and as a result, she's learnt how to take care of  and rely on herself.

When her mother abandons her, she unexpectedly finds herself being rescued by the sister she hasn't seen for years , as well as moving from the wrong side of town to a place of wealth she’s never known before.

And it’s here within where her journey lies.

I’ve always loved characters that display snarling, wounded-animal-like defensive traits – simply because underneath the vicious exterior, you’ll often find a chest of hidden and untold things - and Ruby is the very embodiment of this.

Being someone that’s had to be more of a maternal figure to her own mother than her mom  has ever been to her,  her attitude takes on a new level of defensiveness when she first moves in with her sister.

Wary of having something good happening to her, and not trusting her new found stability, Ruby is determined to be a transient presence in her new home until she can find an opportune time to escape.

Except that things don’t quite unfold in a way that she predicts, because soon -  and despite her best intentions to avoid it - she manages to make friends.

Not only that but she starts to see that maybe she may just have a shot at salvaging her future.

Of course, things also get complicated when the boy next door takes an interest.

However, just as she settles in, her world is once again turned upside down when she learns a few hard truths about her mother.

With her world crumbling around her, Ruby has to decide whether she should run away or trust people just one more time.

Lock & Key takes an in-depth look into how Ruby develops; from the just-becoming-hopeful moments, to dealing with the uglier issues hiding underneath her devil-may-care fa├žade.  

There are themes of recurring abuse that is dealt with in such an open and honest manner, that you can’t help but feel for all the characters involved (perhaps with the exception of Ruby’s love interest, Nate’s father), regardless of their actions.

Sarah’s writing is sharp, edgy and stripped of all artifice; something which I thought definitely suited the tone of the book and made it so much more powerful for it.

As for the supporting characters, well, I wish I could delve a little deeper and give you some more insight into them, but that would be spoiling the experience you can look forward to when you encounter them for the first time.

What I can say though, is that each of them are beautifully drawn out and written in a manner that speaks of an unflinching amount of raw honesty.

All in all, Lock & Key is a beautiful and haunting read that speaks about the bonds of family and how it shapes and changes you, and it's one that shows that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to learn to accept help, while at the same time also learning to assist others.

Thank God I decided to give this book a second chance, because Lock and Key is one of Sarah Dessen’s finest novels – and officially a new favourite of mine. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Sometimes the answers we’re looking for and that which we hope for lies in the very thing we fear the most.

Disclaimer:
A shortened version of this review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.


The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Orbit)
M.R. Carey’s Girl with All the Gifts is one of the most thought-provoking and gut-wrenching dystopian thrillers I’ve read this year so far.

It’s a novel that explores the heart of a rag-tag group of people and their will to survive in a world shot to hell and it’s a book that pushes boundaries in terms of the ethics versus science debate.

It’s literature that is at once filled with beauty, while at the same time highlights the shabby condition of humanity - both physically and emotionally.

Mostly though, it’s a book that at its core is filled with so much heart and is so beautifully written, that you’ll be haunted by its contents for years to come.

The Girl with All the Gifts is the story of Melanie.

Melanie is a precocious little girl.  She’s clever, insatiably curious and is, by all rights, as normal as they come.

Except that she’s not.

You see, when’s she collected from the cell she resides in, she’s strapped in by two men, while the leader, Sergeant Parks, points a gun at a head. She accepts this even if she doesn’t quite understand it.

She even jokes that she won’t bite.

And while there is a revelation that is on the edge of waiting to be revealed, what Melanie doesn’t realise is that she actually can bite, and that given the right circumstances it seems to only be inevitable that she will.

Will she survive the condition that she lives with? Or will she succumb to the relentless hunger and emotionally brainlessness that plague others of her kind?

I first received an early review copy of The Girl with All the Gifts towards the end of last year. 

The tagline on the cover (the final cover doesn’t have this line on the front jacket) read as follows: “Melanie has a gift for us all. But it’s a secret.”

Now with a line like that, it’s hard not to be intrigued. When I read the blurb, I was even more sold on the concept.

With a deliberately vague description in the summary, I pretty much went into this book without really knowing what to expect.

When I closed the last page of the book, I came out feeling haunted by the events, but also strangely sad and uplifted at the same time.

In short, The Girl with All the Gifts is a book that I’m unlikely to forget any time soon.

Beautifully descriptive, while being simultaneously stark and bleak, this book is a zombie novel with so much beauty and heart amidst all the desolation.

Forget all the previous ones you’ve read – this book takes on the ethics of experimenting on live subjects and manages to evoke a sense of kinship with the high functioning non-humans, of which Melanie just so happens to be one.

In this book, the characters we get to know are as follows:

- Melanie: one of the many children being held at a military base – a kind of human battery farm if you will),

- Sergeant Eddie Parks: one of the main leaders in charge of patrolling the base and ensuring that everything runs smoothly), 

- Helen Justineau: the teacher whom Melanie comes to love, and

-Caroline Caldwell:  the ruthless scientist who, while searching for a cure for the zombie plague, doesn’t hesitate to use the highly-functioning “hungries” as experiments  to further her research).

- Kieren Gallagher: right hand to Sergeant Parks 

When a breach of the military control results in complete and utter chaos, this rag-tag team find themselves escaping into the wilderness in search of safety.

Of course, given that they’re in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been overtaken by a zombie plague, the concept of safety is a luxury. 

With very little food, weapons and having to deal with Melanie, whom they don’t trust given her nature, their journey to finding a safe harbour is fraught with tension, inevitable clashes and moments of deep despair.

In spite of this, what follows is an interesting journey, one that will have you cheering wholeheartedly for Melanie, high-fiving the take-no-crap-from-anyone Helen Justineau, reluctantly respecting the eminently practical Sergeant Parks, feeling sympathy for the green-as-grass Gallagher, while outright loathing Dr Caldwell. 

Melanie is a little darling of a girl.

She’s tough, resourceful and falls under the incredibly high-functioning scale of hungries (low scale being the ones who have no capability to feel any human emotion and only respond to scent triggers that alert them to prey).

Melanie is a girl who needs to eat flesh, but doesn’t want to. And it’s this that sets her apart, even though Parks, Gallagher and Caldwell are wary of her.

Her relationship with Helen is an added dynamic that humanises her and results in her being fiercely protective of Justineau in the midst of the worst kind of danger.

It takes a while but she eventually manages to reach an understanding with both Parks and Gallagher.

Caldwell on the other hand, is one of the most infuriating characters in this book. While I found myself with a modicum of understanding for the research work she wanted to do, my feelings were tempered by her selfish, ruthless and calculated coldness.

Her desire to get her hands on Melanie, at times, overrode her desire for everyone’s safety. 

There’s an interesting mythological element that plays a huge part in the conclusion of the book. It’s something that at first seems so insignificant when mentioned, but makes for an interesting twist at the end.

With that said, I really could go on and on about this book, but in the end, this is a book that needs to be experienced, and not read via review osmosis.
 

Do yourself a favour – pick it up. It might just become your new favourite book. I know it certainly is mine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Booktalk: 7 Super powers every book lover should have

In which I write a post inspired by a conversation I had with a friend on Twitter.

Disclaimer:
This article originally appeared on Women24.com.

1. Astral projection


For when we want to leave wherever we are to find some comfort, and peace and quiet to read.

Also, there are some amazing literary places to explore, beautiful libraries from around the world to lose ourselves in and fantastic international book fairs we could go to without having to pay for an expensive flight.


Oh and if that doesn’t work, there’s always a portkey. In fact, I reckon we should have both options, don’t you think?


Gif image: Charmed.Wikia.com  

2. The ability to mute people on command


Because no book lover enjoys being interrupted.  No really. We absolutely hate it when you do this.
 

To us, you’re the annoying ad break during prime time television shows.

Nobody likes you and nobody wants you.


Being able to silence you will prevent us from committing homicide, which means everyone involved benefits. You get to keep your life, we get to avoid jail time.


Gif image: Wifflegif.com  

3. A time-travelling machine activator


So that we can visit places from historical periods that we only get to read about in novels.  Just imagine being able to be transported to ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome? 

Or to the era of the Vikings?  

Of course, these periods weren’t without their epic wars, bloodbaths and bloodshed, but that’s the beauty of having a time-travelling machine – you can go back or forward any time you want to.



Gif image:  Photobucket.com

4. Speaking of time, a handy ability to stop time would also be very welcome.

It’s no secret that out almost every book lover fears they’ll never be able to read all the books they’d like to read before they die.

A time-freezing ability would definitely help our cause.  Just as long as it doesn’t automatically age us the moment we un-pause time again.




Gif image: Charmedchosenlegacy.wikia.com  

5.  The ability to read books in any language


Because let’s face it, there are probably loads of awesome books that haven’t been translated into English yet, and imagine if we can get other people to read books from some of our local Afrikaans authors.

How awesome would that be?


Gif image: Oldworldnewgirl.wordpress.com  

6.  Being able to fantastical book worlds (and the fictional characters within them) to life
Sure, it may bring with it a bit of chaos and upheaval, but imagine getting to meet your favourite fictional character and along with all manner of mythological creatures. 

I like to think of it as book necromancy (Yay, this means I can bring Snape back to life). 

  
Gif image: Tumblr.com  

7.  While we’re at it, can we add speed reading to the list?

 
Anyone a fan of Criminal Minds?

If you are, you’ll know that Spencer, the profiling team’s resident genius scrolls through a book at a speed that seems to be way faster than light or sound (while still absorbing the book’s contents).

Imagine how many works of literature we could all get through in one night if we all had this ability?


Gif image: Stevewhibley.blogspot.com

That’s just my list. How about you? What super power do you, as an avid bibliophile, wish you could have? I’d love to hear yours.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Guest review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

In which my boss and erstwhile boss team up to review the latest book from Caitlin Moran (They’re both huge fans. Ahem, Sam, Lili? While you’re at it, can one of you please return the book so that I can read it?).

Disclaimer: Please note that this review first appeared on Women24.com. 

If you haven’t read Caitlin Moran yet, brace yourself, because it’s time. And if you already love Caitlin Moran, you’ll love How to Build a Girl. 

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Ebury)

If you love Caitlin Moran you'll love How to Build a Girl. I do, and I did.

The problem is – as is often the problem with columnists turned novelists – it’s a stretch to call it a novel.

A chubby girl growing up on a British housing estate, in a huge, funny family prone to drink and dependant on social benefits?

A girl who, donning a ridiculous top hat, then breaks into the London music reviewing scene?

The similarities to Moran’s own life are impossible to miss and in some areas it feels as if Caitlin just changed her own name to Johanna.

The novel so closely follows the path of her own life, that you feel the only substantive change she really made was to brush up her family memories with snappier dialogue and perhaps a little extra paternal drinking.

That said, it’s a warm, lovely read. As a chubby, smart, angst-ridden but practical chick myself… there are few things cooler than relating completely to the women in the books I read. Which is why Moran is such a fucking icon.

- Sam Wilson


Like Sam, I adore Moran. She’s smart, she’s cool, she’s wickedly open about taboo topics like female masturbation and promiscuity, and reading her generous, snappy, warm prose is like having a conversation with your best friend.

Her first book, How to be a Woman, was a delight from start to finish. In her semi-biographical (she calls it a work of fiction, but there are extreme similarities to her own life – either way, it’s rollicking) novel she tackles growing up and, oh how I hate this phrase: coming of age.

Reviewer’s have likened it to a female Portnoy’s Complaint (mostly, I think because of all the masturbation) and many are praising her for writing so openly, and so warmly about the specific challenges that girls face when they grow up.

In How to Build a Girl Moran tells the story of Johanna, a fat, funny teenager growing up in Wolverhampton estate housing with her large, rowdy family.

Johanna realises that her life is not up to snuff and decides to build a new persona. Teaching herself to drink, smoke, wear funny clothes, and experiment with sex, Johanna soon finds that maybe building a girl is not that simple.

- Lili Radloff

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book talk: 7 Things I wish non-readers would stop saying to readers

To us bibliophiles, books are the thing that make us happiest. For a few hours, the world we become immersed in, takes us away from the everyday stresses of life. We become the characters in the book.

We live the lives they live and we experience the world through their eyes. And then real people intervene.


But not only do they interrupt our actual reading, (which in itself is very annoying to readers), they interrupt in ways that can be even more infuriating.

It’s time for them to stop.

So I did the only thing a kind book lover can do. I made a list of the things you need to stop telling (or asking) us, along with answers to your burning questions.


In no particular order, here they are:

1. Why do you read so much?
 


Because reading fuels the imagination, is the best form of escapism and provides us with the cheapest means of travel.

It’s also our way of switching off from the world when our grasp on reality is on the verge of disintegrating altogether.

And tell me you don’t want or need an escape from all the depressing news you see on a day-to-day basis? I don’t know about you, but reading keeps me from breaking down when everything becomes too much. 


2. Don’t you have a social life?
 


I do actually. I just don’t have one where you’re in it.  Also, what makes you think we don’t have lives?

We live several thousand, while you only live one.


To quote my writer friend, @hellioncat: “My social life takes me to grand balls, to thieves' dens, to brothels, to hell and the future and past. I'm sorted, thanks.”  


Believe it or not, I was asked this question while I was browsing for books AT THE LIBRARY.


To be fair, the rather obtuse person who asked me this was trying to sell me some wares of some sort.
 
I mean no literature lover would ask a fellow book addict this question, right? 

3. You have too many books. Why don’t you just give some away?
 

Never, ever say this to a bibliophile.


Firstly, you’re making the assumption that we don’t donate our books (which we do). Secondly, I bought most of my books, so I get to decide whether or not I should keep them or give them away.


My money. My books. 


4. How do you manage to read books that are so lengthy?
 


Oh, that’s easy. I turn the pages and read page by page, right until I’ve run out of book to read.  Frankly, for most readers, the case is the lengthier the read, the better.

It means we get to stay in the book universe that much longer. 


5. So, I bet you read because you have way too much time on your hands
 


Actually, many of us don’t. We simply make time. Just like you make time to do the things that you love. 

6. Didn’t you already read that book?
 


Yes I did. But I want to read it again. So what? Don’t you like doing things you love over and over again? 

7. Why do you buy paperbacks when you also have an e-reader?
 


Because loving something obviously means you can find different ways in which to appreciate it.

It turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Check out this post from a reader on Bookriot who compiled her own list of 10 Obnoxious things people say to hardcore readers.


What is the most annoying thing a non-reader has ever said to you?I'd love to hear some of yours - grumble away. :)


Disclaimer:
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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

A kickass story with more bite than the average vampire novel.

Disclaimer: A shortened version of this review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill)
For the past couple of years, I’ve heard a tremendous amount of positive things about the Vampire Academy series, and yet I held back for two reasons:

1 – The book hype monster
2 – I felt like I had read every kind of vampire novel out there and my fear of this not being any different resulted in me holding back on picking this up.

However, this year, I finally decided to delve into the book and lo and behold, what an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

The first in a 6-book series, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy offers something refreshingly different in a genre that has long since reached its saturation point.

The book takes place in a Vampire boarding school and incorporates a whole new take on the myth and lore surrounding vamps.

In Vampire Academy, we’re introduced to two different types of vamps: Moroi and Strigoi; Moroi referring to those who are born, while Strigoi are turned. 

The pure-blooded Moroi are the royal amongst royals, while Strigois are blood-thirsty outcasts who hunt the ever-decreasing-in-numbers, Moroi.

Because of this, each Moroi is assigned a dhampire as a bodyguard. Lissa and Rose are no exception to the rule.

After being on the run from the authorities at St. Vladimir’s Academy, the boarding school both are supposed to attend, both girls soon find themselves captured and brought back to what is supposed to be a safe haven for the Moroi.

Rose, who is Lissa’s bodyguard is certainly not thrilled about this as it soon becomes clear that the walls of the Academy is no safer than being on the run was. 

And with Lissa showing a propensity for a type of magic which is both powerful and dangerous, it’s clear that Rose needs to start taking her guardianship more seriously, resulting in her getting a training mentor in the form of the delicious Dimitri.

Given all the paranormal novels that I’ve read before, I think I can easily say that Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is one of the best I’ve ever read. Entertaining, fast-paced, edgy and sexy, the book kept me absolutely riveted.

Part of what makes Vampire Academy so enjoyable is the establishment of social hierarchies within with Moroi circles (the more “royal” your blood status is, the higher up in the food chain you are), the relationships explored between the various characters  (Rose and Lissa’s friendship in particular, plays a powerful role) and the interesting lore about the magic the Moroi’s possess and how it relates to Rose and Lissa’s bond).

Rose and Lissa’s characters are particularly well-drawn out. With her rebellious, sarcastic and often abrasive demeanour, Rose, while not always likeable is one kick-ass heroine. Her number one priority is Lissa and she goes out of her way to ensure that her friend is protected, even if she gets hurt in the process.

Lissa, on the other hand, starts off as being docile, self-deprecating and insecure. In many ways, she’s a bit of a wet blanket, but grows into her own during the novel. I love books where characters show development, and Richelle is definitely adept at creating characters that are far from being one dimensional.

She’s also really good at keeping one guessing. I had my suspicions about the villain in the book, but now that I know, I didn't realise that it extended beyond who I suspected.  I’m quite eager to see how the storyline will progress given how the book ends.

The romance in the book is sizzling and I’d be interested to see how the taboos surrounding the relationships will unfold in the next few books. Dimitri and Christian are definitely two book boys that should be added to your list of book crushes, because they’ve certainly been added to mine.

All in all, Vampire Academy is a book that will satisfy people who are tired of seeing the same old boring concepts explored in a genre that’s flogged these paranormal elements to death.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review a book on a new online SA retailer store and win a Samsung Galaxy Tab as well as 1 of 4 book hampers

Raru, SA's new online retailer, is having a competition specifically for all the book lovers out there. 

All you have to do is take a few seconds to register on the website, then browse through the book department and write a review on any book you've read.

The best reviews each week will stand a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, and there are some great book hampers (Some of which include the following books:
Behind Palace Walls - Cay Garcia, Dis Koue Kos, Skat - Marita van der Vyver and Huisgenoot Wenresepte 1 - Annette Human amongst others  ) up for grabs!

Competition runs from 11 August to 24 August 2014, so get writing! 

The more reviews you write, the better your chances!

Click here to visit the Raru website.

Terms and Conditions

  • Competition is valid from 11 August to 24 August 2014
  • Winners will be notified via e-mail
  • Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash
  • Reviews are subject to approval by Raru staff – inappropriate reviews will not be published and won't be considered
  • The choice of winners is final and no correspondence will be entered into 
About Raru
The founders of Take 2, now known as Takealot.com after it was sold to Tiger Global, have launched a new online shopping website called Raru.

The Raru founders each have over 15 years of experience in the online retail world in South Africa.  You can expect only the best shopping experience, with outstanding prices, frequent promotions and competitions, an easy to use site and speedy customer services.

Raru also offers free delivery to Main Centers for all orders over R299.

Raru currently has close to 800,000 books available to order, as well as thousands of Electronics, Movies & TV Series, Music and Video Games.

For more information you can find them on: Twitter | Facebook

There contact details are as follows: Tel:  0861 560 561
E-mail:  info@raru.co.za

Friday, August 8, 2014

Author guest post: Myth, magic and fantasy in fiction by K.M. Randall

In today’s feature, I’d like to welcome K.M. Randall, author of Young Adult fantasy novel, Fractured Dream, to my blog today.

In her guest post, K.M writes about a subject that is an absolute favourite of mine: mythology, magic and fairy tales.

Given that her book, Fractured Dream, is very much rooted in the world of fairy tales, I couldn’t think of a better topic that would be more suited to her – so, without further ado - here are the top 5 reasons she loves these fantastical elements in fiction.

Five reasons why I love myth, magic and fairy tales in fiction . . .

I’ve loved anything supernatural, magical or mythical in stories as far back as I can remember from the Bunnicula series by James Howe to anything by Madeleine L'Engle. So here it is, my five reasons why I love myth, magic and fairy tales in fiction:
Escape:

I like to get lost for a bit sometimes and go to a world where magic exists. I read all genres of books—nature writing and religion-based novels are my non-fiction favorites—but fiction is my escape, especially stories that sweep me away to new places and adventures.

Heroes/Heroines:  

In many stories, brave heroines and heroes in fantastical places, or even within our own world, face great odds but come through in the end to save the day, the world or themselves. For me, these characters working toward the greater good tell us about who we want to be.

They fight, they love and they work toward something great. Real or mythic, looking up to a hero is never a bad thing because the values being instilled—bravery, standing up for what’s right, truth—are good values. Specifically, I’ve always loved books with strong female characters.

Anyone who reads my books will see that my heroines aren’t damsels in distress—they have power and they use it. So the stories I’ve read before my own have colored my writing.

Romantic:

I’m a romantic at heart. I know, as does any person who has been in a long-term relationship or marriage, that once the rosy glow fades it can be hard work to keep it together.

But love is a strong force, and that initial attraction and falling feeling is one of the greatest emotions, and scariest emotions, a person can feel.

Love stories in fantasy, whether it’s Snow White and her prince or the magic of soul mates, allows me to live in a world where love at first sight is a reality and destined souls find each other and experience endless love.

It’s considered fantasy for more reasons than one after all.

To Learn:

I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, became fairly obsessed with Greek mythology in my early teens, and grew to study religion as a concentration in college. Mythology, fairy tales, they’re both culturally rich and steeped in religious and societal undertones.

That many fairytales were written as commentary on society or that people once worshipped a variety of gods and were persecuted for it makes these stories all the more important, even when they’re being used for entertainment purposes within a book.

They teach us about other cultures and the human condition. So even though it’s fiction there’s truth within relatable characters and oftentimes parallels to issues affecting our world.

Happily-ever-after
The final reason is very simple. I like happy endings, and usually, I can get that from stories with fairy tales, myth and magic. And that makes me happy.

About Fractured Dream
Have you ever wondered where fairytales go once they're created?

It's been eight years since Story Sparks last had a dream. Now they're back, tormenting her as nightmares she can't remember upon waking.

The black waters of Lake Sandeen, where her Uncle Peter disappeared decades before, may hold the secret to Story's hidden memories, or a truth she'd rather not know.

On a bright summer afternoon, Story and her two best friends, Elliott and Adam, take a hike to the lake, where they dive into the cool water and never reemerge.

What they find is beyond anything they've ever imagined could be possible, a world where dangers lurk in the form of Big Bad Wolves, living Nightmares and meddlesome witches and gods.

Now Story must remember who she really is and somehow stop two worlds from ultimate annihilation, all while trying not to be too distracted by the inexplicable pull she feels toward a certain dark-eyed traveler who seems to have secrets of his own.

The fates of the worlds are counting on her.

Add Fractured Dream to your TBR pile

Purchase a copy from:
Barnes & Noble

 
About K.M. Randall

As a girl, K.M. always wished she’d suddenly come into magical powers or cross over into a Faerie circle.

Although that has yet to happen, she instead lives vicariously through the characters she creates in writing fantasy and delving into the paranormal.

When K.M. is not busy writing her next novel, she is the editor-in-chief of a blog covering the media industry, as well as an editor with Booktrope Publishing.

She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in English-Lit from Nazareth College of Rochester. K.M. lives in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region with her husband and her extremely energetic little boy. Fractured Dream is her first novel.

Where you can find her online:

Twitter | Facebook | Website

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cover love: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

So, given that this cover’s already been doing the rounds, my post today is not so much a cover reveal as it is a squeeing-over-the-cover kind of post.

Yup, the long awaited cover to the fabulous Cat Hellisen’s forthcoming children’s novel, Beastkeeper has been unleashed (ahem, sorry) into the wild (again, sorry. Not really).

Cat, who is the author of When the Sea is Rising Red, House of Sand and Secrets and a host of wonderful short stories (Um, you should so, so, so read The Girls who Go Below by the way),  has taken a tale as old as time (Ok, I've reached cheese overload, I know) and reinvented it entirely.

In fact, Cat’s said that her version is very loosely based on the fairy tale, so you should definitely expect twists in the tale…

I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

In the meantime, and to tide us over while we wait, here’s the cover in all of its beauteous glory:


Look at the pretty. Just look at it.

It feels like such a homage to those tales of old yonder, doesn’t it? The creepy, silhouetted forest and the winding path? Beastkeeper has officially become one of my new favourite covers.

About Beast Keeper

Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world.

Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too.

The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

GO ON… YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO ADD IT TO YOUR TBR PILE.

Also, while you’re at it, you can check out my review of When the Sea is Rising Red and add House of Sand and Secrets (I’ll be reviewing this one at some point) to your TBR pile.
 
About Cat:
Cat Hellisen is an author of fantasy for adults and young adults. Born in 1977 in Cape Town, South Africa, she has also lived in Johannesburg, Knysna, and Nottingham.

She originally studied graphic design at Technikon Witwatersrand, before realising that she had no interest at all in the world of advertising.

She began writing seriously at age twenty-five but it was not until 2010 that she sold her first full-length novel, When the Sea is Rising Red.

Her children’s book Beastkeeper, a play on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, is due out 2014.

Where to find Cat online:

Website
Goodreads
Twitter