Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guest post: Crossover genres in YA fiction

Today I’d like to welcome Melody, a fellow book blogger, to my blog today. In today’s post, Melody chats about a topic that I myself have always wanted to see more of: genre bending in young adult fiction.

The thing about fiction, young adult fiction in particular, is that the more it changes, grows and makes space for new books, the more experimental and exciting novels there are on offer.

And right now, for me, one of the most interesting trends in YA, are novels that play and experiment with different genres all within the span of a standalone, trilogy or book series.

Melody chats about and highlights a few of the best series that she defines as cross genre fiction.

Enjoy!

A Guide to Cross-Genre YA Books

Gone are the days when every book fell within a specific category. Nowadays, authors write books that involve elements from two or three different genres.
This is especially true for YA authors. If you are a fan of young adult fiction, it’s time to embrace cross-genre books for all of their glory.

Below is a guide to cross-genre YA books and series that you can check out from your local library today. Enjoy!


1. Once Upon a Time Cyborgs – The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer


Who isn’t a fan of fairy tales and cyborgs? Now you can enjoy your favorite fairy tales in a new light. This book is also a great starting point for those want to try out steampunk literature.

You will enjoy the combination of new and old elements that Marissa Meyer combines into one, seamless series.

Synopsis of Cinder (the first book in The Lunar Chronicles):

In the distant future, Cinder, a young girl who is a gifted mechanic, is forced into a second-class lifestyle.

Her stepmother and step sister do not value her or her skills. However, she has to use her skills in order to help the prince win an intergalactic war.

2. Chick Flick Alien Invasion - The Host by Stephanie Meyer

You don’t have to choose between love and aliens any longer. Alien invasions aren’t just marketed towards boys. This alien involves some laughs, a few kisses, and a group of people coming together in a dystopian reality.

Synopsis of The Host:

Melanie Stryder is determined to get her brother to safety after aliens steal the bodies of their parents. While making their way toward their uncle’s secret stronghold, Melanie is captured.

Instead of fading quietly, she decides to fight against Wanderer, the alien who tries to take over her life. Wanderer refuses to leave quietly, and soon Melanie and Wanderer are fighting for their survival together.

3. Adventurous Fantasy – Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Do you have a young man in your family who claims that he doesn’t like reading? This book is the perfect mixture between adventure and fantasy, and the protagonist is just the type of rambunctious character that your son or nephew, or whoever really, will love.

It’s the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure spread out through a twelve book series.

Synopsis of The Ruins of Gorlan (the first book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series):

15-year-old Will is chosen from among a group of teenagers to become the next Ranger’s apprentice. While Will and his friends always found the Rangers to be mysterious and frightening.

Needless to say, Will is surprised when he finds out the Rangers have taken an oath to protect the entire kingdom, and they need his help to fight against a powerful, exiled Lord who is bent on vengeance.   

4. Fantasy inspired Post-Techno Dystopian fiction – The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen


The Queen of the Tearling series is set in a dystopian world where everyone has fled modern technology. Fantasy and Dystopian lovers alike will identify with the protagonist’s struggle to live up to her royal blood.

Erika Johansen’s book will wet your appetite for a fantasy world and a dystopian society.

Synopsis of The Queen of the Tearling (the first book in The Queen of the Tearling series):


Kelsea Raleigh has been raised in secret. When she reaches the age of nineteen, she is called upon to take back her mother’s crown and her title as the Queen of the Tearling.

It is not an easy transition, however, as a crumbled kingdom and an evil queen stand in her path.

5. Steampunk Mystery - The Bookman Histories by Lavie Tidhar

The steampunk genre has stolen the hearts of the literary world for years now. Lavie Tidhar’s books are a perfect combination of steampunk and mystery.

This book is perfect for mystery lovers who want to enter the steampunk world or steampunk lovers who want a splash of mystery in their lives.

Synopsis of The Bookman (the first book in The Bookman Histories series):
A terrorist is taking lives by leaving bombs inside of books. The protagonist is the only one who can navigate a world of pirates and airships to discover the mystery behind the mass murders and bring the terrorist to his knees.

The question is: will the terrorist be found in time to save innocent lives?

6. The Paranormal and Fantasy Clash - The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater


Do you know the difference between Paranormal and Fantasy? It’s a fine line. Basically, most fantasy stories are set in other world or alternate realities.

Paranormal stories involve weird occurrences in a very real world.

As one of my friends says, if you can take away whatever makes the story “weird” and you are still in the real world, then you are probably reading a Paranormal novel…or a low fantasy.

So how can The Raven Cycle be a combination of both the Paranormal and Fantasy genres? The protagonist is planted firmly in one world, but she reaches across to another world.

Does that make sense? No? Well then you need to read this cross-genre book to understand this ingenious blend of genres.

Synopsis of The Raven Boys (the first book in The Raven Cycle):

Blue Sargent, whose mother is clairvoyant, gets into contact with a boy at the local private school. She is drawn into his quest for the truth.

The problem is that Blue knows that she was only able to contact her friend because he is able to die. She has been told that she will be the cause of her true love’s death, but now she has to find a way to stop fate.

7. Non-Steamy Alternate History Romance - The Selection series by Kierra Cass

The Selection series is an alternative for people who love alternate history romance novels, but who aren’t a fan of steampunk or romance novels.

It is a great take on modern reality competition and social class structures. Kiera Cass has created a smart alternate reality history story for girls and “cute romance” lovers of all ages that shows how a soon-to-be princess can do in a dystopian world without the help of engines, guns, or dragons.

Synopsis of The Selection (the first book in The Selection series):

In a future America ruled by a royal family, a group of girls are chosen from all over the kingdom, and from different castes, to vie for the prince’s hand in marriage. There are thrust into a battle that is part court intrigue and part reality television competition.

Musician America is forced into this competition and she fights against what is expected of her at first, until she realizes that this might be her one chance to make a better future for herself, her family, and her nation.

8. Fantastical Bildungsroman – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Have you ever wondered why J.K. Rowling’s series has stayed so popular throughout the years? This seven book series is the quintessential YA Bildungsroman series.

Now you can follow the sorry of a young man as he grows up, learns who he really is, and takes responsibility in the world – and defeats a powerful wizard with the help of his friends and a magic wand.

This low fantasy story perfectly combines the real world with the Wizard World. It is well worth reading through all seven books and witness the protagonist’s entire magical journey.

Synopsis of The Sorcerer’s Stone (the first book in the Harry Potter series): 

For the first twelve years of his life, Harry believed that he was unwanted and unloved. When he finds out that he is actually a wizard and he is actually somewhat of a celebrity in the Wizarding World, he can’t wait to leave his aunt and uncle behind to attend wizarding school.

However, everything isn’t as easy as it appears. Harry and his friends must stand against an evil wizard who is bent on taking over the world.

9. Mythology and romance – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Do you love mythology? Do you love horses? If you said yes to either of these questions, then this is the book for you.

Maggie Stiefvater’s book is the perfect fiction novel for anyone who loves racing, horses, mythology, romance, or anything inbetween.

The plucky heroine is instantly likable and instantly recognizable. Feel free to let go and find your wild side in this book.

Synopsis of The Scorpio Races:

Puck Connolly has been riding for a long time, but she never expected to be able to participate in the Scorpio Races.

No female has ever ridden a sea horse in the yearly contest before. However, this deadly competition may be her only chance to find a better life.

10. Time Traveling Fantasy - A Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle


Don’t let the fact that this book is on the standardized school lists fool you. This classic fantasy series is actually one of the best pieces of YA time traveling literature that I have ever come across.

If you love time traveling literature, but you’re tired of non-magical historical stories, this is the book for you. There are so many alternate worlds and time lines in this series, your head will be spinning. Just make sure that you have your feet planted firmly on the ground before opening one of these books.

Synopsis of A Wrinkle in Time (the first book in the A Wrinkle in Time Quintet):

Meg Wallace’s father had been experimenting with a fifth dimension when he suddenly vanished. Now Meg, her younger brother, and her best friend have to go on an adventure through time and space to rescue him.

On the way, they met fantastical creatures and have to escape evil villains.

11. When Sci-Fi Fell in Love with Fantasy- Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi

Sci-Fi and fantasy lovers don’t have to fight any longer. This book is a masterpiece that meshes the sci-fi and fantasy world in a mixture of adventure, dystopian ideas, and, yes, romance.

Veronica Rossi’s series is a must read for anyone who loves both or either genre. Be warned, though, if you don’t love both genres, you may find yourself wanting to expand your reading list.

Synopsis of Under the Never Sky (the first book in the Under the Never Sky series):

Ari has lived her whole life in a protected world, safe within her room while she explored using holograms and other technology. She doesn’t believe that she can survive in the primal world outside.

Perry is a savage with the power of the Sight. These two characters are complete opposites, or so they think at first. They will have to work together to find what they are searching for.

12. A High Fantasy-Filled Dystopia – The Grisha series
Remember, high fantasy involves a story that is told on another world. These elements in a dystopian world create a future land filled with beautiful and dangerous magic.

The sugar on top that makes this book truly unique is that the inspiration of this fictional world is based in Russia.

If you pick up any book in The Grisha series, you will find a magical experience different than any YA you’ve ever read before.

Synopsis of Shadow and Bone (the first book in The Grisha series):

Orphan Alina Starkov has never been considered anything special, until she is plucked from the ranks of the royal cartographers and taken to Little Palace to live with the Grisha.

There, she learns that she is able to call on a strength and power that her world has never seen before. She is actually the Sun Summoner, the only person who has the ability to destroy the Fold and save Ravka.

Thanks to Melody for stopping by – you can check out her blog, The Golden Dragon’s Library, here.

What are some of your favourite genre crossover novels? Share your picks and recommendations below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book review & spotlight: Poison Princess and Arcana Rising by Kresley Cole

In today’s post, I’m featuring both a review and spotlight post. As part of the Arcana Rising celebration, I’ve recently been giving the opportunity to review Poison Princess, the first book in a Arcana chronicles by Kresley Cole.

I’m sure most of you have heard or read the books, but just in case you haven’t, Poison Princess is about a girl who has debilitating visions of an apocalyptic future and explores what happens when those visions come true.

Today, Arcana Rising, the fourth book in the series is out in the wild. I don’t want to give too much information about the book as I’ve just finished the first one, but have included a brief synopsis for you below (following my review of Poison Princess).

Source: Review copy from the publishers. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za 

Summary: Goodreads
Publication date: August 19th 2014
Publishers: Simon & Schuster

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Arcana Chronicles, post-apocalyptic tales filled with riveting action, the dark mysticism of Tarot cards, and breathtaking romance.

She could save the world-or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline "Evie" Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future-and they're still happening.

Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Derveaux. But she can't do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest.

She knows she can't totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers.

A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to re-enact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it's not always clear who is on which side...

Review:


Okay, so I'm going to start off by stating that I very nearly gave up on this book.

I'm glad I didn't though because despite the fact that I found characters problematic and thought that some of the storytelling was a bit too slow for my liking, the execution of the story's concept was one that was incredibly well done.

While the book does fall prey to the Special Snowflake/Chosen One syndrome trope, Poison Princess proved to specifically be interesting because of its unique concept.

Think characters representing and embodying the different types of tarot cards - all who are gearing up for a major battle following a huge apocalyptic event - and you'll have an inkling of just what you can expect in this book.

Instead of another run of the mill work of dystopian fiction, what we get is a cleverly plotted story that builds up slowly towards an interesting twist at the end. 

I have to add that ever since I've read books like The Poison Diaries and The Poison Diaries: Nightshade, I've become a little obsessed with botany used as a device in fiction, and the way it's used in this book, is definitely one of the biggest reasons I was so pulled in by this novel.

Evie, is by all accounts a rich, spoiled and weak-willed brat who constantly rejects the idea of having supernatural abilities (this self-denial trope in YA really needs to stop ya'll. It gets a little tired if you spend most of the novel trying to hide your "true self"), while Jack is an absolute jerk, whom I in all honesty, can't say I like very much.

Caveman mentality complex is not an attractive quality. I'm not impressed with the thought-line that one has to have that kind of mentality to be considered a bad boy (because it is possible to be one and still be respectful), but I do hope to see some better characterisation in the rest of the books.

Having said that, I don't think the characters are completely irredeemable and contrary to what I said, I do like the fact that they're not perfect and that they have a lot to learn about each other on their quest to find answers.

Ultimately, Poison Princess kept me glued to its pages and I'm definitely going to be checking out the next book in the series. 

About Arcana Rising:
Losses mount and deadly new threats converge in this next action-packed tale of the Arcana Chronicles by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole.

When the battle is done . . . 

The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind--but Circe strikes back.

The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . . 

With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter's reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her.

Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.

To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future--and her chilling past--will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter's ashes, stronger than ever before?

Purchase a copy of the book by clicking on the image below.

http://raru.co.za/imports/uk/product/0997215151-arcana-rising-volume-5-the-arcana-chronicles-paperback

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Firstly, a huge apology for my absence. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I know, but a number of factors have prevented me from getting around to updating - exhaustion being the primary reason for my silence. 
 
I hope to get around to blogging more this month, but in the meantime, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by posting up this short review of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, which, although not perfect, I quite enjoyed! 
 
Source: Review copy from the publishers. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za
 
Summary: Goodreads
Publication date: 31 July 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown UK  publishers

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Review:

WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead, although I’ve done my best to be as vague as possible without giving anything away

An enjoyable read that should be read for the nostalgia and not for the expectation of being a fully fleshed out story. I’ve seen a lot of criticism about this not being an actual book, which is rather ridiculous considering that this was originally written and adapted for stage.
 
To me, this book actually reads like a series of Throwback Thursday moments simply because of the fact that for most parts of the play, we explore scenarios set in the same landscape, but alternative universe in terms of time – and as such, we get to play witness to interactions with some of our old familiar favourites.

Of course, considering that this is the script of a play, a lot of the moments in the book often get lost in translation because we are only provided with snapshots of moments instead of fully developed and fleshed out scenes.

It’s enough to give us an overview of the characters and scenarios, but personally, it did leave me wanting more.
 
The best bits of the play-to-book script is the friendship that is explored between Scorpius and Albus (they're the most adorable duo ever) and the complex relationship that both of them have with their fathers (so many daddy issues yo).

To be frank, I’m not even sure why the relationship between the boys were made to be one that is simply a close friendship, considering all the subtext and UST (unresolved sexual tension).  In fact, I’ve seen many people describe this as the Scorbus (Albus and Scorpius) fan fiction they’ve dreamed of and I’m inclined to agree.

To echo what I’ve said to a friend who asked about Albus and Scorpius: the subtext is so non-subtext that this book could just as well have paired the two together from the onset.

In terms of plot, there were several moments that left me scratching my head and one huge moment that I was certainly not expecting (I’m still ruminating on this aspect even though it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve read the book. I also find it hard to believe that a certain character is capable of feeling any form of feeling that isn’t tied to murderous intent, but I guess that is what Jo was banking on, so well played, Jo. Well played).
 
However, despite the fact that I feel like so many things were left unanswered and unaddressed (which I’m mostly excusing because ya know, SCRIPT and not novel (as mentioned above),  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ended up being a fun and fantastical read and one whose play I'm definitely still interested in seeing.

Read it because it’s fun, but don’t expect epic character arc, development and intricate plots and sub-plots.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Book review: Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran

Source: Review copy received from the publisher via Netgalley. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za. 

Summary: Goodreads
Publication date: 12 April 2016
Publisher/Distributor:  Prime Books

Streets are more than thoroughfares. Cobblestone or concrete, state of mind or situation streets are catalysts for culture; sources of knowledge and connection, invisible routes to hidden levels of influence.

In worlds where magic is real, streets can be full of dangerous shadows or paths to salvation.

Wizards walk such streets, monsters lurk in their alleys, demons prowl or strut, doors open to places full of delightful enchantment or seething with sorcery, and truly dead ends abound.

This selection of stories some tales may be rediscoveries, others never encountered on your fictional map will take you for a wild ride through many realms of imagination.

Review:

Ok, I tried. I really did. I initially chose this book because I read the previous anthology of fairy tales edited by Paula Guran - an anthology which I loved and devoured in practically one sitting (side note: I'd really, really love to see Paula Guran doing another anthology of fairy tales). 

The book’s summary also didn’t hurt. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see wizards, warlocks and other fairy tale creatures roaming the streets; descriptions of magic thrumming in the air and running through their veins?

Unfortunately for me, this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

I certainly don't think this is a bad collection, but I just wasn't invested enough in the theme or the stories to continue.

A good collection of tales keeps the reader coming back for more, and despite the fact that there were a few good stand out stories - Kat Howard's Painted Birds and Shivered Bones for example (seriously, her writing is exquisitely detailed and the settings she chose perfectly fit in with the story she aimed to tell) - there just wasn't enough power to completely draw me in.

Some authors had interesting, if somewhat literal interpretations of the theme, while other authors, like Neil Gaiman for instance, took a more lateral approach and focused on how the characters related to the settings instead.

All in all it's a good read if you're looking for a read between reads, but if you really want an anthology that will have you gunning for more, do read Once Upon on a Time: New Fairytales edited by Paula Guran.

Monday, July 4, 2016

SA author spotlight: Bontle Senne, author of Shadow Chasers Book 1: Powers of the Knife

Today I’d like to welcome South African author Bontle Senne to the blog.

Bontle, who has recently published her debut novel for middle grade to early teen readers, is here to chat about why she’s written for this specific age-group, especially in a South African context, and to give us an introduction to the spunky characters in her novel, which is the first in a brand new series with a uniquely South African flavour and setting.

Before we get around to chatting to her, here’s some information about the book.

About the book:
 
What if you discovered that you come from an ancient family of Shadow Chasers, with a duty to protect others from an evil Army of Shadows?

Nom is an outsider at school. When she and Zithembe become friends, life still seems ̶ well ̶ a little ordinary.

But when an army of monsters threatens their world, it’s all up to the two of them … and the start of a journey into the dreamworld on a quest that will change their lives.
Powers of the Knife is the first book in the Shadow Chasers trilogy.

It’s an African fantasy adventure ̶ one part family saga, one part hero’s quest.

Add it to your TBR pile.

Describe yourself:


I’m a Libra who enjoys brisk walks near the beach but not on it. I grew up in Johannesburg on a steady diet of Roald Dahl, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. I have never been able to do one thing at once or for too long.

As a result in high-school, I did ballroom, latin, hip-hop and modern dancing, debating, drama, kick-boxing, public speaking. In university, it became tutoring, debating, fencing, volunteering and burlesque dancing. I still technically live in Johannesburg but I spend a lot of time travelling for work.

Why have you chosen to write for this age group?   

On my first day working in publishing, as an intern at Modjaji Books, my boss, Colleen Higgs, said to me, "What we really need are local children's books. If you want to make a different in local publishing, make children's books".

At the time, I was young(er) and a little self-important so I rejected the idea immediately: I wanted to make "serious" books. I wanted to write "important" literary novels. But over time I realised that, in a Southern African context, children's books are the most important books we have.

There are few books for this age group that are contemporary, Afro-centric, accessible and just fun.

And why these characters?

I love writing girls that kick-ass so that was a given. Nom had to be different from some of the other girls I was writing at the time and - because I had already decided to name her after my mom - I weirdly thought about what my mom would have been like at that age.

Their personalities are pretty similar: action-orientated, fiercely loyal and independent. But Nom needed to have some kind of counter-balance so I wrote a bit of myself into Zee: more analytical and skeptical, more grounded but willing to take as many risks for things that are important to him.

I find that they are still growing to be more like themselves, and less like who I initially thought they were, every time I write them.

What is next for the characters in the story? Any sneak highlights to look forward to in the next book?  

Dragons! Winter is coming! No, I joke... Next is finding Zee's knife. More monsters, more Shadow Chasers, more of Nom running face-first into danger…

Are you as adventurous as the characters in your book?  

I'm not fighting a secret army of monsters or anything but kind of, yes. I have a very risk-taking nature and I get more impulsive as I get older. As long as it doesn't involve heights or extreme sports, I'm in.

Do you think friends who knew you at school would have expected you to become a writer?
In the ninth grade, I had a computer in my room for the sole purpose of being able to wake up in the middle of the night and write.

I wrote a short story a month, poems, one-act plays all at 3am on a school night... I think my childhood friends are surprised that I've ended up doing anything besides being a writer.

When you were a child, of the age of your readers, what did books offer you?  

For a long time, I was painfully shy and introverted. Books were my best friends, my holiday, my safety blanket.

And not just reading them - writing them has been a big part of my life since I was 8 or 9. I think especially if things aren't happy or safe at home, books become your happiness and safety. They were certainly mine.

About Bontle: 

Bontle Senne is a book blogger and literacy advocate. She wrote her first short story at 6 years old and her first book review at 9 years old.

She hasn’t stopped writing ever. Bontle is a former managing director at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, a trustee of READ Educational Trust and a part owner of feminist trade publishing house Modjaji Books.

She occasionally writes books reviews for the Sunday Times and even though it was a long time since she was 16, her favourite books are still books for teens.

She has spoken around the world in Congo-Brazzaville, Germany, France and, of course, South Africa about African children’s books and reading.

Follow her on Twitter.

To order a copy of the book, you can visit Cover2Cover.co.za.

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!