Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book talk: 5 stages of going through a book break-up

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on Women24.com

Recently I’ve been reading (or attempting to read in this case) an urban paranormal fantasy novel.

The book had everything I thought I was looking for in a fun, light yet action-packed novel about my favourite kind of mythological creature.

Kick-ass heroine? Check. Snarky rockstar fairy way too big for his arrogant boots? Double-check. Interesting mythology that forms the backbone of the entire story?

Well, I can’t say for certain, because after about 105 pages in, I finally gave up the ghost with this one (There was a creepy spider-fae queen though. That much I know).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those readers who hate giving up on a book.

Sure, I like to advocate that life’s way too short to suffer through a book you’re just not connecting with, but I find that advice often hard to follow myself. Having said that, there have been a number of books and series that, over the years, I simply had to toss aside out of pure grief and frustration.

The Big Book Break-up is what I like to call it.

What I’ve found is that whenever I’m going through one of these break-ups, there would be some emotional resistance that would form part of the process. Much like the 5 stages of grief, here are the emotions I go through whenever I’m in the process of breaking up with a book.


                                                    Image via: Giphy.com

1. The big book denial
This is the stage when I’ve usually gotten around to the first 50 to a 100 pages or so and am convinced that while things haven't gotten off on a great start, the story will get better. Oh the youthful optimism of this phase – it lulls me into a false sense of security every single time.

2. The “what’s wrong with me?” moment
Here’s where I start blaming it on everything but the book. I go from blaming it on my mood and reading settings, to wondering whether there’s something wrong with me (I especially start doubting myself when my friends are all about the love for the book in question).

See? It’s that “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario some couples like to play. Except in my case, I only come to the conclusion that it’s not me when I’ve reached the very last stage of fighting to hold on to a relationship with a book that should have ended (p)ages ago.

3.  Book bargaining
Ah, the point of negotiation. By now, I’ve reached a point where I’ve (usually) finally admitted to myself that the book in question may not be all that I was hoping it would be. Yet, something in me will hesitate because WHAT IF IT GETS BETTER? And what if there's a huge plot point I could be missing out on?

Fear of missing out is a huge curse for most book lovers and it’s one that rears its ugly head when I really don’t need it to. I mean, I could be reading a better book, for goodness sake.

Instead, my inner dialogue chooses this moment to pipe up and talk about all the possibilities that I could be missing out on, as opposed to the probabilities of a better book I could be focusing on instead.

4. Taking a break to read something else phase
If you're a stubborn book quitter like me, you'll know that by now, you've reached a stage where your need to finish the book is overriding the desire to move on to a new book. So, instead of giving up like you should, you decided to take a break and read something else in between.

In this case, the book that I decided to read, ended up being so much better than the one I’ve been relentlessly holding on to.

5. The big book chucking
And that, my fellow book darlings, is the very moment I decided to finally toss the book aside. I mean really, who needs that kind of torture?

You’d think I’d know this by now, but apparently I need to experience a better book every time to be reminded that a) life is way too short to read bad books and b) there are way too many books out there spend so much time trudging through a read that feels more like a chore than a brand new adventure.

How about you? What kind of stages do you go through when loving, loathing or giving up on a book.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book talk: All the Sad Places (on books and the power they have to get you through some of the worst days)

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on Women24.com

Books might not be able to completely cure depression, but they do get you through some of the worst times.

Emptiness. Numbness. Endless sadness. Never-ending feelings of apathy, malaise and melancholy.

These are just some of the feelings that many of us associate with depression.

It’s feelings most of us are familiar with and emotions we all need to talk about. But we often don’t because we’re either, a) not sure how to broach the subject or, b) scared that we will be made to feel ashamed of the way we’re feeling.

One of the most recent books that I’ve read is a book called All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It’s a novel that tackles the subject of mental health problems, with a strong focus on suicide and depression.

It’s a novel that’s drawn both praise and criticism; adulation for its unflinching and no-holds barred approach to the reality of what depression really does to a person, and disapproval because the tone of the book, in many parts, seems to make light of it.

I elaborate and address this issue in my review a little more, so I won’t be going into too much detail here.

What I can tell you is that this novel got me on so many levels.

Yes, it’s a book that doesn’t get it 100% right, but any book that can make you look beyond its flaws and leaves you feeling as if your life has just been made a little better for it (simply because you feel like someone understands), is a book that’s worth being one of my favourites of 2015.

One of the quotes that have stayed with me ever since:

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

That passage sums up everything about my battle with depression. It’s a feeling of hopelessness that travels around you because you’re sad for so many different reasons.

You feel sad and guilty and you want to make it easy on the people around you, but can’t because, you don’t understand your own illness yourself.

I love this book because it shows that you can put up a normal front and still be dying from the inside. I love it because it depicts the good days and the bad. But mostly, I love it because it’s honest enough to tell us that sometimes the battle is so hard that it never seems like you’re ever going to win.

This book hit me hard, but I’m glad, because in many ways it brought me comfort, the way so many books that don’t touch on the topic of depression, already do.

And that’s the thing about books like All the Bright Places and books in general. As long as they keep me reading, then I know that I can get up and face another day.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect day, just as long as it’s another day. Because the day that I know that I can’t pick up a book to read, is the day that would mean I’ve given up completely.

What books have helped you through difficult times?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Book review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (first published by Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, in 2015) 

Disclaimer:
Review first appeared on Women24.com. 

You can
purchase a copy of the book on Raru.co.za

Trigger warning: Suicide


Keep a box of tissues at hand because Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places will rip your heart to shreds. 

This book, already one of the most hyped about of the year, takes a look at depression, mental health and suicide amongst teens, and explores the stigma associated with illnesses that can’t be seen, but is felt on so many levels.

I’m no fan of the hype monster, but given that I was interested in this book even before it started, I simply had to pick it up when it arrived on my desk.

Needless to say, my experience of this book was decidedly jarring.

Yet, despite my initial ambivalence towards it, I can certainly say that this is a novel that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

In fact, I think my battle with it actually enhances the reason why I’m considering it one of my top favourite reads of 2015 so far.  

Death. Bereavement. Avoidance. Depression. Suicide. Hope.

If you’re looking for a read that will be filled with the jollies, you are not going to find it here.

Despite the book’s initial fluffy tone - something which I, at first, found very unsettling, especially given the fact that the book starts off with a boy who saves a girl from jumping off the bell tower of her school - All the Bright Places isn’t so much a happy read as it is a thoughtful, exquisite and heartbreaking treatise on what depression does to a person.

When Violet and Finch first meet, both of them find themselves at the edge of the bell tower at their school.  Somehow, Finch talks Violet out of jumping from the ledge, despite the fact that he himself counts his living days.

When they’re paired up for a school project that requires them to discover the wonders of the city and state they live in, what starts off as an accidental meet-up will transform them both; one for the better and one whose world will be changed irrevocably by the events that follow.

While the book is narrated from the perspective of both Violet and Finch, I feel as if this is more Finch’s story than Violet’s, something which I really appreciated because it is so rare to see books that deal with male teenagers struggling with depression.

It’s like the book industry is buying into the myth that only girls suffer from depression. And while there are books that do feature young males suffering from any form of mental illness, the ratio in comparison to books that feature female protagonists with depression, is far lower.

But, back to the book.

As mentioned above, one of the biggest criticisms about All the Bright Places is that it many people think it seems to make light of depression. That the tone isn’t what it should be.

Here’s my thing though.

I think people who make this claim are also the kind of people who, I feel, would be more inclined to think of depression as only being a one-dimensional illness. 

An illness that should only be characterised by feelings of misery, despair and unrelenting sadness, all of which it is. 

A sickness that isn’t peppered with good and happy days. 

There’s this notion that depression doesn’t come in degrees.

As someone who suffers from depression, I beg to differ. I know that some people’s mental health problems are worse than others and I know those who have many good days in between.

All the Bright Places, I think, is a book that highlights that. There isn’t a rule that says you should only portray depression in one way. And for those who think that it is, well, consider the fact that to make this assumption would be insulting to the complexity of human nature.

This passage from the book couldn’t have put it better.
 “It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

Not only does it deal with the topic of how those who suffer with depression feel about their own illness, but it speaks of the fact that people somehow need to see a certain version of depression in order for them to believe it is real.

And that is why I could look beyond the so-called fluffiness to see the heart of this book. For those who want to give up on it, at least give the second half a chance – you won’t regret it. All the Bright Places is a book that speaks to us all in different ways and on different levels.

The characters, their stories and the words of this book will take you places. And it might not be your version of what it should be, but it does put you in the shoes of others in order to understand how they find (or don’t find) coping mechanisms to live through each and every day.

Read it. You won’t be sorry.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

A harrowing read that deals with the subject of surrogacy as a form of servitude, in a society that is dominated by wealthy and privileged royals unable to bear children of their own. 

Disclaimer:
Review first appeared on Women24.com.

You can purchase a copy of the book on Raru.co.za
 
The Jewel by Amy Ewing (UK edition first published in 2014 by Walker Books Ltd)

The blurb of this book describes Amy Ewing’s novel as being, and I quote, “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.”

In reality, it feels a little more like Suzanne Collins meets Margaret Atwood.  That said, despite the similarities, Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is probably one of the most interesting dystopian Young Adult fiction novels I’ve read this year.

In fact, once the book actually diverges from the more familiar aspects of The Hunger Games, The Jewel ends up being a pretty engrossing novel that tackles a subject I haven't seen explored in the Young Adult fiction genre as of yet.

Surrogacy.

Not just that though, it deals with the surrogacy as a form of servitude in a society that is dominated by wealthy and privileged royals unable to bear children of their own.

It’s not hard to find yourself compelled by this book given that it starts off with the protagonist’s ominous declaration: “Today is my last day as Violet Lasting.”

That sentence is the start of our protagonist’s hellish journey, in which her name, identity, agency over her own body and freedom of choice is stripped away forever. This, all in the quest to continue the royal line for a royal Duchess who can’t carry a child of her own.

The Lone City is divided into 5 districts: The Jewel, The Bank, The Smoke, The Farm and the Marsh, which is the poorest in the circle. As you can tell, Hunger Games vibes at first.

Violet Lasting is just one of the many girls who finds herself being whisked off to be sold at an auction to become nothing more than a broodmare/baby incubator for the Duchess who purchases her.

What makes matters worse is that in the Jewel (which houses the various royal lines), rivalry is rife amongst the royal houses. The quest to produce the first child, in order to be closer in line to the throne, is a vicious one - Duchesses will resort to drastic tactics (even murder) to get what they want.

This means that not only are they surrogates, but they have to watch their backs all the time as one of the best ways to eliminate a threat, is by killing off the surrogates to ensure that pregnancy is no longer a possibility.

To top it off, these surrogates are in high demand because they have special gifts (known as auguries) that can enable them to manipulate colour, create something from seemingly nothing; and most importantly, enable objects to grow at a very rapid pace.

It’s when she meets another captive and loses her best friend to the surrogacy programme that Violet decides that she has had enough and would rather risk exile and even death, than be stripped of her identity and free will.

The Jewel is the first in a trilogy, one that I found myself enjoying a lot more than I thought I would.

What makes this book stand out is that it doesn’t shy away from highlighting the barbaric practices of this form of slavery.

This book is brutal in its depiction of the suffering that Violet and others like her have to endure. It excels at juxtaposing images of the Jewel as a magnificent place, all the while highlighting its cruel policies, politics and underhanded tactics to maintain control of the city.

While I found the romantic element of this novel annoying (simply because it falls victim to the instant love plot device), I found myself really gripped by the story and heroine’s plight to not just fight for herself, but for others in the same situation.

If you’re looking for a book that features a strong heroine fighting for agency, equality and for the right to make her own choices, this book is one that I’d definitely recommend. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Guest post: 15 ways to tell if you are a bookworm

I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of reading lists about being a book addict. Not only do they have me enthusiastically nodding along to every single point being made, but they always serve to remind me just how awesome it is to be such an ardent lover of books.

In today’s guest post, Tea Addict, a lovely friend of mine, shares her list of ways to tell if you’re a book worm.  I dare you to disagree with all of the points made.

1. You think vouchers to spend at a bookstore are an absolute win.  Family and friends stop asking what you would like for your birthday or Christmas as they already know the answer.

2. Your husband builds you a bookcase.  You couldn’t be more excited if he’d added a new level to your home.

3. When packing for a weekend away, you pack in a book (or two) before clothes.

4. Lending out your precious books almost causes physical pain.  You have devised a series of excuses when someone sees you reading and asks to borrow the book.  “Oh this book?  No sorry it belongs to my aunt’s friend’s cousin’s cat.”

5. You are one of those people who always has a book on them.  It is either in your handbag, or desk drawer or in your car.  You are never without something to read.  Ever.

6. You think libraries are beautiful.  You can spend hours in them and never get tired of going back. 

7. When a movie is based on a book, you are the person in the cinema whispering furiously “It wasn’t like that at all in the book.” People stop wanting to go to the movies with you when the film has anything to do with something you have read. 

8. You will only consider joining ‘serious’ bookclubs.  Where you discuss the book and the characters in-depth.

9. You make time to read.  It can be your busiest time at work but you make sure to dedicate some time to chill out with a book.

10. Books are a healthy form of escapism in your opinion.

11. The thought of being locked in a bookstore (with a comfortable chair and a kettle) is a secret fantasy of yours.  

12. Meeting someone who has loved a booked or character as much as you did is better than ice-cream.  With sprinkles.

13. You have your favourite authors but you are always keen to try something new. 

14. You think librarians are very fortunate people.  As are people who work in bookstores.  To be surrounded by books must be absolute bliss.

15. You are incapable of just browsing in a book shop.  Unless you buy a book (or two) you just don’t feel right.

What else would you add to the list? Do share yours – it’s always fun hearing from fellow bibliophiles.

Disclaimer: This post was originally featured on Women24.com.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year so far.

You can purchase a copy of The Girl on the Train via Raru.co.za


Summary from Goodreads (published by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld publishers in 2015)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.

She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed.

Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

What I thought:
Oh my aching soul. This review is going to be a jumble of tangled thoughts because I need to get these thoughts out of my head, and I need to get it out now (I may write a more coherent review at some point, but for now, my inner fangirl must come OUT).

The Girl on the Train is probably the best thriller I’ve read this year so far - and this by a debut author no less.

If you're looking for the kind of book that is anxiety-inducing, yet will force you to keep you reading, then you should look no further than The Girl on the Train.

Paula Hawkins has a remarkable knack for pulling you into the story; her messy, unreliable and brilliantly drawn characters leaving you perpetually unsettled and constantly on edge.

In fact, the portrayal of each character's neurotic obsessions and often paranoid delusions (are they really?), are so unnervingly real, you can't help but feel as if every single one of their doubts, fears and lingering suspicions have been imprinted on you, leaving you with the worst case of second-hand apprehension imaginable.

I am pretty sure I developed whiplash just from reading this book, as I was constantly chopping and changing my mind about the characters, their motivations and behaviour patterns.

Speaking of characters, if you’re going into this book expecting to feel any form of warm or fuzzy feelings for any of them, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.

They’re not the kind of protagonists you’d want to be friends with. Hell, these are probably the kind of people you wouldn’t want within reaching distance of you.

And yet, for all that, they do inspire sympathy, empathy and compassion in the reader... at least when they're not doing things that frustrate  you, or make you want to shake your head in pure despair at the level of absurdity of their actions.

Rachel, our heroine, in particular was a character I felt for on so many levels.

She's a complete and utter wreck. She teeters on the edge of self-destruction, and her alcoholism only adds to the fact that what she sees and experiences, is not conducive to her being a reliable witness.

And the more she tries to insert herself into the investigation that follows, the more questionable her behaviour becomes.

Still, in spite of the reckless and irresponsible things that she does, there was something about her that made me keep rooting for her to get to the bottom of the mystery, while at the same time, also had me hoping that she’d pull her act together. 

However, there is so much more to her story than meets the eye. And indeed, at the end of this book, I ended up seeing Rachel as much of a victim as anyone else.

Mostly thought, I saw her as a survivor, and one that was determine to do the right thing, even if it was at the cost of her sanity.

I did work out who the villain in the story was relatively early (and yet, I was still taken aback, that's how good Paula's characterisation of the culprit was), and watching this person unravel was as creepy, chilling and disturbing as some of the actions of the other suspects in the book. 

I won’t forget this antagonist, that’s for sure!

One of the most compelling, spine-chilling and thoroughly engrossing novels I've read so  this year so far, I know this is a book that will stick with many people for a long time to come.

After all, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is not just a book about secrets in the dark, but it's also a cautionary tale of what happens when lines between reality and illusion are blurred and already volatile situations are misconstrued, misinterpreted and taken apart before justice has even been properly invited to the party.

It’s a book that speaks to us about treading carefully with information, because what you think you see, is often not always what it actually is, and it’s a message (whether intentional or not) that is especially relevant in today’s society, where we’re so quick to judge and assume things about others – especially with the ease that social media networks allow us to.

Go out and get this book – it’s a corker of a read.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book talk: Would you read a book by an author who has lied about the story?

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on Women24.com

Earlier this year, and according to The Washington Post, a Christian book publishing house recalled a book called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey, after Alex admitted to lying about his near-death and subsequent heavenly experience.

The book, Washington Post goes on to add, sold over a one million copies and chronicles the story of Alex’s divine encounters following a car accident that left him in a coma for two months.

There are, of course, many visceral reactions that have stemmed from his confession. What adds to the confusion is that Alex’s mother was allegedly unhappy with the book for months, and never agreed to meetings with the publishers.

I’m not surprised by this.

Not because the book’s been made out to be a lie, but because this isn’t the first time an author has lied about the contents of his/her books.

I mean, who can forget the memorable interview with Oprah Winfrey and James Frey, after it emerged that he fabricated details in his memoir, A Million Little Pieces (you can read a transcript of that interview, which includes a follow-up interview five years later, here)?

Then there’s Forbidden Love by Norma Khouri.

Now this memoir caused quite the scandal.  According to Listverse.com, in this book, Norma reveals an account of how she acted as middleman between star-crossed lovers, Dalia (from a staunch and traditional Muslim family) and Michael (a British officer who also happened to be Roman Catholic).

The inevitable happens: Dalia’s father finds out and proceeds to stab her multiple times. Norma, who obviously fears for her life because of her role in this, is eventually smuggled out of Jordan.

Except that this never, ever happened. In fact, not only did it emerge that this memoir was completely made up, but there’s actually proof that she wasn’t even in Jordan during the timeline of the events in the book.

Another more recent example is Zoella, popular YouTube blogger (she has over 6 million followers), who recently debuted the novel, Girl Online.  For up to months, this book has been marketed in such a way that it led her fans to believe that she was the actual author of the book.

Not long after the book was published, did Zoe (real name Zoe Suggs) and her publishers admit that she had a ghost writer.

Ghost writers are obviously nothing new (I mean James Patterson actually has a ghost writing factory as it is), but misleading your target audience into thinking that you wrote the book, especially when you are an online brand and persona who has specifically stated, and I quote from The Independent,  that it’s "always been a dream of hers to write her own novel," well, then things become a little murkier.

For me, this obviously begs the following question: if an author has revealed that he’s lied about a book he has written (even if it’s just some parts), would you still read it?

I’ve posed this question to my lovely colleagues and friends and there’ve been some pretty mixed reactions. Some flat out refuse to, while others, including myself, find ourselves a little more divided on the issue.

As a rule, I generally prefer fiction over non-fiction anyway, but isn’t fiction, in simple terms, a beautiful lie made to fit into a scenario that makes that untruth a fantastical reality (Although, historical fiction that aims for accuracy would probably be the exception here)?

And let’s not forget that often, in fiction, authors create characters that are unreliable narrators.

That said though, I get that readers get upset when they find out that information that is supposed to be factual has been exaggerated.  In fact, I’m definitely not immune to experiencing outrage when this happens.

No one likes being duped. And many readers feel betrayed by the author, especially if it’s a book that is a personal account that they can or do relate to (It’s particularly awful if an author uses abuse or addiction in any form to manipulate readers).

In fact, in these moments I think it’s safe to say that some people find it really hard to separate the author from the book.

Personally, I like to think that I fall into the category of people who would give the author at least one more chance (Unless the author is a complete and utter jerk about it).

We all tell lies at some point (and if you claim otherwise then that is a lie in itself); it’s just that some are found out, while others still lurking underneath the surface are waiting to find their way out.

I don’t judge people who choose not to read an author’s work because of the author’s fallibility; I just prefer to remind myself that I come with my own brand of flaws.

But, that's just me. What's your take on it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book spotlight: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir + giveaway (US only)


It's been a while since I've done a book spotlight, so thanks to Rockstart Book Tours, I'm really happy to be able to feature  AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, which releases in the US today. I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

Below you can check out some info about the book, enter a giveaway courtesy of Penguin Teen, read a letter from Sabaa and view the book trailer.

Enjoy!

A letter from Sabaa Tahir.

Dear Readers,

Today, my “baby” AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is finally out in the world! From inception to pub date, this journey took eight years. And what a journey it was: writing, rewriting, revising, editing, querying, submitting; Meeting other debuts, bloggers, booksellers and librarians, and hearing their thoughts on EMBER. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the radness.

And now, the book is here! I am so excited to see it in the hands of readers. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To celebrate release day, I’m giving away two signed, first-edition hardcovers of the book. Details below!

All my best,

Sabaa

Title: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire.

When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.


Check out the book trailer!



About Sabaa:

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel.

There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly.

She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.



Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a signed hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. US Only.

3 winners will receive a hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and a Sword Letter Opener! US Only.

Ends on May 9th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Giveaway: The SA speculative fiction edition (giveaway now closed)

UPDATE: Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. Unfortunately there could only be one winner, but don't fret, because there'll be more of these to come.

That said, congratulations to The Book Wurrm. You've won yourself copies of any two books listed below. You have 48 hours to claim your prize, thereafter which another winner will be chosen.

Next giveaway will be coming your way in the near future.
______________________________________________________________


Today I’m all about celebrating some of South Africa’s most talented authors and because I want their books to be read widely and everywhere, I’m making this an international giveaway (Yay - although I should add that my giveaways are almost always open worldwide).

I’m offering two of any of the books listed below to one lucky winner.

All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me what the one book is that you wish more people would read or talk about and why.

Below are just a few of the many wonderful SA writers out there and this is only the first of many SA-themed giveaways I’d like to do (Fear not, fabulous SA authors who aren’t mentioned, this is only the beginning).

Here are brief descriptions of the books you stand a chance of winning!

Deadlands by Lily Herne (Add to your Goodreads TBR pile)
In Deadlands, life is a lottery.

Ten years have passed since Cape Town was destroyed in the war with the living dead. Now, human survivors are protected from the zombies that lurch around the suburban Deadlands by shrouded figures known as 'Guardians'.

But the price for protection is steep: each year, the Guardians hold a human lottery in which five teenagers are chosen for a secret purpose.

Seventeen-year-old Lele hates everything about her life in the city: her new school, the brainwashed zombie-lovers, the way everyone seems creepily obsessed with teenagers . . . She wants out. Then she is picked as a Chosen One: but she's not prepared to face whatever shady future the Guardians have in store for her.

So she runs for her life - straight into the Deadlands, and into the ranks of the Mall Rats - a renegade gang of misfit teens who have gone underground - and are preparing to take a stand.

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen (Add it on Goodreads here)
I’ve recently ran a giveaway for Cat’s latest, but for those who haven’t heard of When the Sea is Rising Red, which is Cat’s first published novel, I thought that this would be a fab opportunity for readers to choose this as an option

After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege.

She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik.

Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

The Guardian’s Wyrd by Nerine Dorman (Add it on Goodreads)
Sometimes having a fairytale prince as a best friend can be a real pain.

Jay didn't realise that sticking up for Rowan, the gangly new kid at school, would plunge him into the dangers and politics of the magical realm of Sunthyst. But if anyone is up for the challenge it's Jay September. With his trusty dog, Shadow, at his side, he braves the Watcher in the dark that guards the tunnels between the worlds, and undertakes a dangerous quest to rescue the prince.

It's a race against time - can he sneak Prince Rowan away from under King Lessian's nose and bring him safely back home - all before the prince's sixteenth birthday? Or is Rowan's mother, the exiled Queen Persia, secretly trying to hold onto her power by denying her son his birthright?

Jay is ready for anything, except, perhaps, the suffocating darkness of the tunnels. And that howling …

The Mark by Edyth Bulbring (Add it on Goodreads)
In the future, the world has flipped.

Ravaged by the Conflagration, this is a harsh world where the relentless sun beats down, people’s lives are run by a heartless elite and law is enforced by a brutal brigade.

A mark at the base of the spine controls each person’s destiny.

The Machine decides what work you will do and who your life partner will be.

In this world, everyone must make their contribution. Some more than others. Juliet Seven – “Ettie” – will soon turn 15 and her life as a drudge will begin, her fate-mate mate will be chosen.

Like everyone else, her future is marked by the numbers on her spine. But Ettie decides to challenge her destiny. And in so doing, she fulfils the prophecy that was spoken of before she even existed.

The Faerie Guardian by Rachel Morgan (Add it on Goodreads)
Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years.

That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamor follows her into the Fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the Fae realm.

Easy, right?

Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.
Devilskein & Dearlove by Alex Smith (Add it on Goodreads)
When thirteen-year-old Erin Dearlove has to move in with her aunt on Cape Town’s bustling Long Street, she struggles to adapt to her new life, harbouring a dark secret.

But her friendship with their upstairs neighbour, Mr Devilskein, soon helps her to adjust.

Like Erin, Mr Devilskein has something to hide: he is the keeper of six mysterious doors. He entrusts Erin with the key for one of these doors, and she discovers that they lead to infinite magical worlds.

In wonder she explores an underwater paradise, the lost works of William Shakespeare, and a beautiful Chinese garden.

During her adventures she meets a prisoner names Julius Monk, but Julius is not all he appears to be. The captive and his Book of Dooms prove dangerously enticing, and soon it is up to Erin to save the lives of those she’s grown to love.

Devilskein & Dearlove is as sinister and intriguing as it is quirky and colourful. With inimitable storytelling flair, Alex Smith weaves an enchanting tale of friendship, adventure and magic.

Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok (Add it on Goodreads)
That night, I slip into her mind and dream her dreams. I see myself, Thuli, strange and disconnected and the wrong way round, like I’m stuck in a mirror.

We walk across the patch of veld to Saviour’s Pit Stop, our arms crooked at the elbows and linked together. The sky is silver-blue and the propeller on the Legend winks as it turns slow in the breeze, fanning our cheeks. The colour of her dreaming is sharp, as if our lives then were so much brighter…


In childhood Thuli and Sindi are inseparable, pinkie-linked by a magic no one else can understand.

Then a strange man comes knocking, bringing news from a hometown they didn’t know existed. His arrival sets into motion events that will lead them into the darkest places, on a search for salvation where the all-too-familiar and the extraordinary merge, blurring the boundaries between dream and reality.

Updated: Giveaway closes 25th of May.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book talk: 10 Bookish rules to live by [a repost]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of my columns here, and seeing as I’ve been whinging a lot about readers who don’t return books in the same condition it was lent to them, on Twitter, I thought I’d post this little column on book rules to live by.

Warning: Some (mostly harmless) snark ahead. :-))

The first two points are most important as they involve, and are addressed to the non-readers in our lives.

Here goes:

1) Stop interrupting us when we’ve huddled into the most comfortable spot imaginable and are completely immersed in the world between the pages.

Unless someone needs to be rushed to the hospital or the house is on fire, we will assume that any of your mortal needs can either be taken care of by you, or by the other person in the house who doesn't read.

2. Avoid trying to persuade us to get rid of books because you think there’s no space.

The floor is a space.

If you trip over a book, it’s not the book’s fault. You just need to be more careful and watch where you’re going, for goodness sake! You could damage the book you're tripping over.

The points below are for the fellow bookish folk we can all relate so well to.

3. Return books that were lent to you. No one likes a book thief.

4. Oh, and if you do bring the book back, the only coffee stains we want to see on them, are no coffee stains.

5. Don’t mock people for their choice of reading material. Every book has its place and there’s room for every kind of reader.  If you want to read that naughty bodice ripper, I say go for it.

And if you want to wax lyrical about the most obscure piece of literature out there, then by all means do it. Just as long as it makes you happy.

6. Have an opinion about a book you’ve never read? Well, aren’t you precious? By all means, love or hate a book, but if you choose to feel something about a book, shouldn’t you at least have given it a fair chance before forming an opinion about it?

Sure, some books warrant that “I couldn’t get past the first chapter feeling,” but you’d need to have opened the book for you to have that feeling, wouldn’t you?

My issue isn't with those who think a book is rubbish, but with the people who make up their mind about a book before they've sat down to actually read it. Instead what they do, is read dissertations and online columns and opinions about it, and automatically absorb those as their opinions.  

7. Try not to spoil book endings. Spoil it for yourself if you must (I know lots of people who are fond of sneaking a peek at the back), but for many people, it's not just about the journey that takes you there, but about how it all ends. No one should be robbed of that, don't you think?

8. Ditch the e-book vs paperback debate. Personally, I believe there is room for both and if e-books and e-readers are becoming more, then who am I to say “be gone with you e-menace?”

While I certainly and mostly read paperbacks (and will probably always have a preference for them), I wouldn’t get rid of my Kindle or my reading apps on my phone at all. It’s the stairs and escalator analogy over again. I like knowing that both are at my disposal.

9. Try not to think too badly of those who mess up the book-to-film adaptations.

Wait. Forget I said this immediately. Judge as mercilessly as you want.

10. Always make time to visit the library. There’s a treasure trove to be found that’s worth more than a Valentino design. Even if the physical price says otherwise.

Those are just a few of the rules in my list. Why don't you tell me about the rules you'd add to your own book manifesto?
I’d love to read what you have to say.