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:

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.


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.


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.

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.


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:


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

The deadly lure of a siren’s call awaits those who venture too close to the sea.  

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.

Wake by Amanda Hocking (Tor)

 I was first introduced to Amanda Hocking when I heard about her book deal with Pan Macmillan publishers.

For those of you who don’t know, Hocking was offered a book deal after her the sales of her self-published novels shot through the roof, resulting in her becoming one of the best-selling, self-made authors we’ve seen to date.

Before that I had not heard about The Trylle Trilogy, so when I picked up Switched, the first book in said trilogy, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Surprisingly, I really ended up enjoying it, but still ended up taking a break from reading the follow up books to Switched.

In retrospect, I think I actually made a good decision as my experience with Wake actually makes me want to revisit Switched and finally get around to reading the rest of the books.

To put it more bluntly, my reading experience of Wake was far more superior one to Switched.  In fact, the series surprised me in more ways than one.

What I initially thought was just another paranormal story about mermaids, ended up being a book about murderous sirens interspersed with a good splash of action, romance and Greek mythology.

Told from two different points of view (the main protagonist and her older sister), Amanda Hocking’s Wake chronicles the story of Gemma Fisher, a young and pretty teen hailing from a small town where almost nothing eventful happens.

With her love of swimming and a growing fondness for Alex, the boy next door, Gemma’s life is pretty stable. 

At least, that is, until the arrival Penn, Lexi and Thea, the beautiful but strangely eerie outsiders who decide to make a pit stop in town for the rest of that summer. 

With their strange allure, Gemma  and her sister Harper can’t help but feel uneasy around them and strive as far as possible to avoid bumping into them.

Harper, who has always had a bit of an overly protective streak with regards to Gemma, is especially leery of the girls and constantly warns Gemma to stay away from them; a rule she’s only too happy to follow given her rebelliousness.

One night during one of her late-night swimming sessions, she inadvertently runs into Lexi, Penn and Thea who invite her to join their little party. Following the events that occur, Gemma soon begins to realise that there’s something wrong with her. 

She’s stronger, faster and attracts even more attention than usual. It isn’t long before she realises that something dark and hungry lives inside of her, changing her, calling to her and seducing her. 

With her new found power, it also becomes increasingly apparent that her loved ones aren’t safe and that trying to resist the “gift” the girls have bestowed upon her is an exercise in futility… because what the girls want, the girls get.

And Thea, Penn and Lexi are not about to let Gemma go.

Wake is one heck of a fun read.  Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, Amanda Hocking’s take on sirens is one that I certainly haven’t come across as of yet.

Most of you should, on a basic level, be familiar with the Hades and Persephone myth. What many people don’t know is that sirens, once considered amongst the most highly regarded figures, were punished by Demeter for failing to protect and rescue Persephone from the clutches of Hades.

Essentially, Amanda Hocking draws upon this myth and expands it to form her own take on it, and I for one, certainly enjoyed it.  

Initially I found the writing to be a bit clunky, but once I got into the story, everything just flowed together. The book a fast-paced read, jam-packed with action, intensity and characters that are incredibly likeable.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the “devastatingly beautiful” character trope, but in this instance, I can understand why it’s been used. Amanda’s exploration of the sirens is incredibly intriguing.

She injects their presence in a way that makes no doubt that these girls are aware of their allure, while also ensuring that there is a sinister and menacing aura that surrounds them.

The history behind their transformation not only explores the one form they take, but also another version which is a lot closer to some of the myths told around their origins.

More than that I can’t say, as it will give it away, but suffice to say that in spite of their role as the manipulative villains of the story, there is something that’s incredibly fascinating about them; so much so that I’m actually keen to read more about their history.

As far as the main protagonist goes, Gemma, while not one of my all-time favourite heroines, is a pretty likeable character.  I loved how Amanda didn’t make a fuss or big deal about the kind of life that she lives.

Here’s just an ordinary girl who spends each day doing ordinary, normal things, until something weird happens to her.

She’s a girl who tends to feel stifled by her father and sister’s over protectiveness, and while she does feel frustrated, her dad and sister, Harper’s concern are more than a little justified given Gemma’s late-night swimming activities and the fact that reports of missing people have been rife.

Hocking’s characterisation of Gemma’s older sister Harper, is pretty phenomenal too. I dare say, that in some instances, her wisdom to think through situations and her love for her sister often came through more clearly.

The parts of the book though, are the scenes when the supernatural elements come to life. Think underwater magic, beautiful mermaid tails and dark, seductive and vicious siren behaviour. 

Add in a cyclone of twisted transformation, unexpected revelations, romance and moments where bravery and loyalty is tested to the extreme, and you have yourself one fun paranormal read.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

P.S.  Just a fair warning to younger readers: there’s one or two scenes that are rather gory and graphically detailed, so if you’re sensitive to that, make sure to skip those pages.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Blog tour (Author guest post): Why the sci-fi and dystopian fiction genre continues to be such a huge hit by Melissa Delport

Today on The Book Fairy’s Haven, I’d like to welcome South African author Melissa Delport.

Melissa, who’s the author of dystopian fiction novel, The Legacy, has kindly agreed to write guest post on dystopian and science fiction as part of her book tour stop on my blog.

Strangely enough, her post coincides with my most recent author guest post from Georgia Clark who, in her article highlighted 5 reasons why she loves the genre so much.

Melissa’s take, while certainly in the same vein, delves into why she thinks this genre is still so popular, especially given the fact that there’s such an over-abundance of it.

Personally, I adore the genre, so I’m hardly complaining… but, enough rambling from me, and over to Melissa (You can scroll down for more information about both the book and the lovely author).

Why the sci-fi and dystopian fiction genre continues to be so popular (despite the fact that there seems to be almost an over-abundance of it)

Dystopias and Science Fiction may go together like teen girls and vampires, but it is important to remember that although they often intersect, the two genres do exist independently.

Dystopian fiction explores social and political structures and is set in a speculative societal structure that is headed for an irreversible oblivion, where justice, freedom and happiness are suppressed.

The underlying concept is often an analogy for real-world issues and a political warning of things to come, should humanity make the wrong choices.

Science fiction, on the other hand, does not necessarily paint a negative picture of the future.  Instead, it focuses on imaginative scientific content, including advanced technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life.

When a book incorporates these sci-fi elements in a dystopian setting, such as Artificial Intelligence in a post-apocalyptic world, the line between the two genres becomes blurred.

Speaking as a voracious reader, I don’t think there is such a thing as an “over-abundance” of any genre of book.

A broader selection of quality novels is in the reader’s favour. Authors will also try to capitalize on the rising popularity of a specific genre.

The 2000’s and early 2010’s saw the cultivation of the young adult sci-fi market, and more recently, the popularity of dystopian series such as The Hunger Games, the Divergent series and The Mortal Instruments.

Science fiction and dystopias are no more abundant than romance or suspense novels, but dystopias in particular have come under fire because the market exploded remarkably quickly.

Unfortunately the advent of effortless self-publishing, and the many writers trying to maximize the cult-like phenomenon of the dystopian hype, do not make for a good combination.

What we must remember is that in any genre, there are good books and there are bad books. Ultimately, though, the good books will prevail.

Personally, I feel that traditional genres, set in a ‘real-world’ setting fall far more easily into the trap of becoming clich├ęd and repetitive, because they are bound by the laws of what we know to be true and possible.

SFF, on the other hand, knows no limits other than the vivid reach of the writer’s own imagination.

Many readers would seem to agree, because despite the increase in both self-published and traditional published science fiction and dystopian fiction books, there is still a market for it, and these genres show no sign of abating just yet.

The beauty of these books lies in the rich character-development and the clear good-versus-evil plot.

Dystopia’s are characterised by a “high stakes” scenario, with plenty of action and adventure, but they typically have a “hopeful” ending – and above all, people crave the presence of hope in a world where there is little to be had.

The Australian.com reports that Dystopian Fiction asks big questions: What is Freedom? What is love? What is human?

Dystopias offer a variety of answers, while providing the reader with an epic journey of pure escapist fantasy, far removed from the harsh reality of our real lives. The genre is thought-provoking and has more substance at its core than many readers realise.

Personally, I have always loved stories that relate to struggle, be it survival after a nuclear war, a catastrophic natural disaster, or the collapse of industrial and social systems.

There is something captivating about mankind’s will to survive, the fascination of our “fight” or “flight” response. And when there is nowhere to run, you will find Dystopia at its very best.

As an author writing in this genre it is imperative that you stand out, and to do so you must be original, have a novel concept, and you have to write your heart out.

And as long as science fiction and dystopias have an audience, writers such as myself will continue to provide. I think that these genres are deserving of their place of the shelves, and will be around for a long time to come. 

 About The Legacy

“World War Three lasted twelve days. Twelve days was all it took for mankind to devastate the planet and almost eradicate the human race.

No victor emerged from the ashes and billions lost their lives.

We survivors lived through the bleakest of winters. A primal existence became the new order, and the little that remained of our humanity hung in the balance.

Then one man stood up and changed the world. I believed, as did everyone else, that he was the hero of our time, the man who had saved us from our own demise.

His name is Eric Dane and he is the President of the New United States of America.
He is also my husband, and my greatest enemy.

I grew up oblivious to the truth, until my father found me when I was nineteen years old. He told me about the many horrifying facts that our new leader kept hidden from us. And he told me that beyond the borders the Resistance grew and fought for freedom from the oppression that Eric Dane had imposed on us.

My name is Rebecca Davis. I am twenty-six years old, and in me the Resistance has found the ultimate weapon.”

A narrative of good and evil, love and passion, right and wrong – and at the centre of the story a strong woman who is prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause she believes in.

The Legacy is an action-packed, adrenalin-inducing thrill ride which will leave you riveted long after you have turned the last page.

Add it to your TBR pile here:

Purchase a copy of the book:
Kobo - HERE
Kalahari.com – HERE 

About Melissa

Wife and mother of 3, Melissa Delport is the author of The Legacy Trilogy and the stand-alone self-published e.books Rainfall and The Traveler. 

She graduated from the University of South Africa with a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 2000.

At the age of twenty-four Melissa started a logistics company (Transmax) from the spare room of her flat and built it up to two fully operational depots in Durban and Johannesburg.

Now, 10 years later, she has sold her business in order to write full time.

Melissa lives with her husband and three children in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The Legacy (book 1 of The Legacy Trilogy) and The Legion (book 2) are available now and the final book, The Legend, will be released early 2015.

An avid reader herself, Melissa finally decided to stop ‘watching from the sidelines’ and to do what is her passion.

Where you can find Melissa online:

Blog: www.melissadelport.com
The Legacy Trilogy Website: www.thelegacytrilogy.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMelissaDelportBookClub
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/MelissaDelport
Twitter: www.twitter.com/MelissaDelport
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/MelissaDelport
Publisher’s website: www.traceymcdonaldpublishers.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Author guest post: Five Things I Love About Dystopian Fiction by Georgia Clark

I’d like to welcome the lovely Georgia Clark, author of YA contemporary novel She’s With the Band, and newly released dystopian novel Parched, to my blog today.

As someone with an invested interested in dystopian fiction,  especially given the fact that most of them deal with highlighting socio-economic, political issues, violence, rebellion and revolution in a manner that’s a lot more magnified than in most genres , I was thrilled when Georgia graciously agreed to feature on my blog.

In her post today, she tells us about the 5 things she loves most about dystopian fiction; and, having read the post, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with her points. 

Without further ado, here within some information about the book, followed by her thoughts on dystopian literature.  

About Parched:

Parched is a riveting story about post-apocalyptic survival set in a time and place that pits the small number of haves against the have-nots.

After suffering the death of her scientist mother, sixteen-year-old Tessendra Rockwood leaves her life of privilege in Eden to join the resistance and the have-nots in the desertlike wasteland called the Badlands.

Together, in a fight against inequality, they uncover a shocking government plot to carry out genocide in the Badlands using artificial intelligence.

After witnessing devastation, sordid prisons, and corruption in the rebellion against tyranny, Tess must question her loyalties and risk her life to bring justice to Eden.

Add it to your TBR pile here.

Over to Georgia

Five Things I Love About Dystopian Fiction

The Social Commentary Factor
Like sci-fi, dystopian fiction is the bomb when it comes to casting a clear-eyed view on the problems of the present.

From the dangers of government control (Matched), the deadening effects of reality TV (Hunger Games), to the importance of love in our lives (Delirium), great dystopia is a cool insight into what your favorite author is critical of.

Thrills and Spills 
I love plot. I’m an action-adventure fan: take me on a journey, full of twists and turns; unexpected allies, terrifying villains, and true tests of courage and you’ve got me. I love dystopian fiction as it tends to be big, plot-based stories full of thrills and spills.

 I was keen to give this a crack with my novel, something that would appeal to readers who enjoy rebellions in far-flung places both familiar and strange.

So naturally I was pretty chuffed when my School Library Journal review said, "readers who eagerly followed the rebellions against Panem’s Capitol and Divergent's Erudites will root for Tess and her Kudzu allies.” Mission accomplished.

The Dark Side 
By their very definition, dystopias delve into the dark side. People are oppressed, governments have too much control, life is rough and tough.

My life is not rough and tough: clean water flows from my taps and the most difficult thing about finding fresh food is the lines at Union Square’s Trader Joes. Dystopians let me live in a world where I can see people be tested.

They let you wonder ‘what if?’. What if I was in the Hunger Games? (I would last approximately 3.5 minutes, so I’m really glad that I’m not).

Kickass Heroines 
In YA dystopias we find an abundance of strong, powerful, believable young women, who are not overly sexualized or defined by their relationship to men.

From Karou to Katsa, Clary to Lena, dystopia is a place we can find kickass girls on a journey, not just supportive girlfriends or one-note sexpots. I had fun creating the character of Tess for Parched, a 16-year-old heroine who stands up for what she believes in, despite the odds.

It’s A Wild and Wacky Place
My fifth reason for loving dystopia is simply this: it’s a wild and wacky place. From 1984 to Never Let Me Go to Margaret Atwood’s MacAddams trilogy, the genre is full of insanely imaginative tales that have what I think of as a literary ‘It’ factor.

Good dystopia feels fresh, exciting, and different. What are your favorite dystopias?

Let me know in the comments!

About Georgia:
Georgia Clark grew up in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in Communications: Media Arts and Production from the University of Technology, Sydney.

After graduating, Georgia worked as editor of The Brag, a weekly music street press magazine.

She then became an online producer for an Australian soap opera called Home & Away and an online writer for Fremantle Media Australia.

Georgia moved to New York City in 2009 to pursue a career in teen and lifestyle journalism.

Her articles have been featured in various publications, including Cosmo, CLEO, Daily Life, Sunday Life, Girlfriend, and more. Georgia currently works as the senior digital creative at Showtime Networks, where she produces the award-winning SHO Sync app.

Despite refusing to own a smart phone, Georgia crafts a thrilling story of robots, renewable resources, and romance in her new futuristic fantasy novel Parched. After the death of her scientist mother, sixteen-year-old Tessendra decides to join a rebel group and risk her life to bring justice to the people living outside the utopian city of Eden.

In addition to her love for writing, Georgia is a travel enthusiast and has visited fourteen countries. She also enjoys improv, studies comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and hosts a monthly show in the East Village with a team called Dreamboat.

For more information about Georgia, visit www.georgiaclark.com and follow her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Where you can find her online:
Twitter: @georgialouclark

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mini book review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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 The Distance Between Us by Kasie West.

About The Distance Between Us by Kasie West (HarperTeen)

Money can't buy a good first impression.

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers learned early that the rich are not to be trusted.

And after years of studying them from behind the cash register of her mom's porcelain-doll shop, she has seen nothing to prove otherwise.

Enter Xander Spence—he's tall, handsome, and oozing rich.

Despite his charming ways and the fact that he seems to be one of the first people who actually gets her, she's smart enough to know his interest won't last.

Because if there's one thing she's learned from her mother's warnings, it's that the rich have a short attention span.

But just when Xander's loyalty and attentiveness are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn't a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she'd ever realized.

With so many obstacles standing in their way, can she close the distance between them?

My thoughts:

What an unexpectedly charming and emotional read.

Don't let the cover fool you into thinking that this book is all fluff. Fluffy goodness there certainly is, but there's a surprising depth that explores what it means to live on the opposite side of the tracks in comparison to spending your days hosting charity functions within the halls of a mansion.

It's a book about how young adults are pressurised into being defined by how much they have or don't have.

It's a novel that explores the close bond between a mother and daughter; a relationship that's always been strong but threatens to unravel because of secrets and lies brimming beneath the surface.

Mostly it's about one sassy, prickly-peared, poor young heroine who wears her sarcasm like a fortress, and the sweet, but wealthy boy who gets under her skin in spite of herself.

There's certainly enough swoony and UST moments in this book, but the heart of this novel lies in the growth and development Caymen undergoes throughout the novel.

Throw in an awesome best-friend and a group of raggy-taggy rock-band friends and the result is a book that will hit your right in the feels.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book talk: First world book problems

Being a book addict is, without a doubt, the best thing in the entire world. 

But, as we all know, being a slavish literary enthusiast certainly comes with its set of unique problems. I was chatting to some lovely folk on Twitter and in the office and somehow the topic of First world problems, in relation to books came up.

In no particular order, I’ve decided to share them here:

1.  The pain of having to deal with cliff hangers. And then being forced to wait for years before the next book in the series is being released.

2. Forcing yourself to put a book down because things like sleep, work and daily social interactions get in your way. Although sometimes (okay, most of the time), the need to look like a hungover rat with bloodshot eyes in the morning takes preference over putting the novel aside. 

3.  When publishers change book covers halfway through your collection of a specific book series. Now you have to buy a whole new set in order for them to match.

4.  When people who've watched the movie before they've read the book, suddenly start acting like they're experts on both. I hate to break it to you, but your opinion isn't worth much to those who've read the book first.

5. That moment when you have to deal with people who can see that you're reading, but still insist on talking to you anyway. No reader wants to be forcefully ripped out of the fictional world he or she's immersed in.

6. When you have so many unread books in your shelves, but you're not in the mood to read them and as a result have to buy a new one (oh, who am I kidding; there's always a good time to buy books).

7.  Dealing with people who hate your favourite book without having made the effort to read the book in order to form an opinion that's based on popular mass opinion.

8. Having to cope with separation anxiety issues the moment you (reluctantly) lend someone a book. 

9. When you visit the library or bookstore only to discover that they're closed due to stock take. Words can't describe the level of agony I feel when this happens.

10. That long waiting period you have to endure when a book you've ordered takes longer than day to arrive.

11. My lovely colleague Adele says it really breaks her heart that she can't read her Kindle in the bath. I know, it's utterly tragic (I'm not big on the reading in the bath thing, but I can understand where she's coming from).

12.  Laura, our lovely intern on the other hand, says she hates that she's forced to read a popular book the moment it comes out in order to avoid spoilers.

These are just a few of the struggles that I, and my colleagues, like to whinge about. What are some of yours? Please share – I’d love to giggle and nod my head in agreement. 

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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book review: The Classics edition: Grimm's Fairy Tales

Anyone who hasn’t read Grimm’s collection of Fairy Tales, hasn’t had much of a childhood. 


This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm (Vintage Classics)

What a marvellous little collection of tales.

Strange, creepy, romantic and filled with all manner of twisty things, Grimm’s anthology of fairy tales is one of those classics that should be on every fable and folklore lover’s book shelves.

Most of us are familiar with Disney’s treatment of stories like Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella and The Frog Prince - to mention but a few - but in this collection, The Brothers Grimm go back to some of the roots of these tales and present a version that is not only different, but that are also much darker.

In quite a few cases, some don’t even have the happily-ever-after ending that we’re so used to seeing.

Even more interesting is that, based on recently doing a little research on folklore (I adore anything fable, myth and legend related),  I discovered that in some cases, even the Grimm brothers had much better and  happier adaptations and endings for some of their  versions of these legendary stories.

And that’s saying a lot about two intellectual scholars who’ve never shied away from including murder and cannibalism in their tales.

But, more on that later - I’m getting ahead of myself.

This collection, published by Vintage Classics in 2013, features a diverse range of stories.

From the relatively well-known (Little Red Riding Hood, Brier Rose and Puss in Boots), to the rather obscure (The Juniper Tree, The Lettuce Donkey and The Singing, Springing Lark), these stories will take you on a journey that will leave you feeling at once both nostalgic and slightly sad that you missed out on so much subtext when you were younger.

While I certainly adored these narratives with my limited understanding of them when I was younger, reading them anew has certainly left me with an even deeper appreciation of these tales of yonder. 

Looking at it from a child’s still developing point of view, it’s rather easy to assume that fairy tales, as a rule, is all about brave knights, resourceful princesses and the happily-ever-after it generally contains.  And for me, it certainly did represent that.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this impression at all, but I do think that as they get older, children should be made aware of the underlying themes and metaphorical threads that are interwoven in them.

My personal experience of this collection was one of reawakening; one where I was reminded that behind these folklore tales, a treasure trove of hidden meanings was (and is) just waiting to be found.

From wicked enchantresses, to singing larks, golden birds and magical beasts, these Grimm-told stories are filled with all sorts of fantastical imagery.  You’ll meet everything and everyone and discover that magic and goodness can be found just around the corner.

On the other hand, Grimm’s collection also tells us that dark deeds, enmity and cunning tricksters are just as prone to lurk about, and that some exist closer to home than anywhere else.

Exploring and incorporating themes of incest, murder, cannibalism and human folly in general, you’ll be astonished at just how much twistedness there are in these stories. 

My absolute favourite?

The Juniper Tree – this one’s probably one of the darkest  I’ve read in this collection, although I’m sure that I’ll probably discover more of their darker works in my quest to read every single Grimm story I haven’t read yet.

Interweaving themes of child abuse and murder with cannibalism and greed, The Juniper Tree is the story of a young boy who, loathed by his stepmother, is tricked into getting an apple to eat from a chest.

When he takes the apple, the stepmother closes the chest, lopping off his head in the process (You can see why this is one of the lesser known Grimm’s tales).

Trying to hide her cold-blooded act of killing from her husband, she chops up his body parts and feeds it to the family when he comes home from work.  His stepsister, however, is heartbroken with grief and saves his bones. She eventually wraps them in a handkerchief and buries him underneath the magical Juniper Tree.

What happens next is for you to discover, but suffice to say, you’ll be hearing the phrase: “My mother she killed me, my father he ate me” throughout the story.

Deliciously twisted, but also incredibly hopeful, this story is a reminder that love can triumph from beyond all planes.

I wish I could spend more time going through all the stories, but I’m sure that what you’ll get instead of a book review, is a novel-length discourse on each of these little gems. 

I will however make a brief mention of some of the stories that have stood out for me, the tales in question being:

Brother and Sister (a tale of two resourceful siblings who escape their evil stepmother),

All Fur (a young princess who flees from her father after he falls in love with her and demands to marry her)

The Singing, Springing Lark
( A young princess, an enchanted prince, a 7-year period apart and a wicked princess’s scheme. Here’s quite a lot that happens in this story, but the journey of the brave heroine will certainly have you rooting for her.)

Snow White and Rose Red (the version that involves an enchanted bear and one nasty, ungrateful, thieving dwarf), oh and…

The King of the Golden Mountain and The Lettuce Donkey (both decidedly sinister, although the one more so than the other because the ending is just so bluntly shocking).

See, there are just so many to mention here. The one thing I should add though is that if you’re looking for a book with a collection of fully developed and fleshed out stories, you won’t find that here.

These stories are written in a way that’s often choppy and abrupt, but strangely all the more beautiful for it. Many may even consider it somewhat simplistic, but I find that sometimes it’s these kind of reads that have the most pearls to offer.

If you haven’t read it yet, go out and grab a copy.

If you’ve read it before, but it’s been languishing in your shelves, dust it off and pick it up again. After all, there’s nothing like a book that reminds you that you’re never too old to be fall in love with your childhood favourites again.

And that is indeed what this collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales ended up doing for me.