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

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 A copy of the book can be bought from

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

So recently, the lovely folk from HarperCollinsUK and JB publishers sent me a lovely prize pack of books consisting of Cecilia Ahern’s debut YA dystopian fiction novel, Flawed. 

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

A photo posted by Tammy (@tammy_bookbell) on

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

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

Giveaway closes 25th May.

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

Good luck to all!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unresolved endings have also become quite popular with me.

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

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

After the Woods?

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

What’s your take on this?

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book review: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

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

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24.

A copy of the book can be purchased via

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

Trigger warning: Torture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, you heard me.

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

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

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

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

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

Read it. It’s definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book spotlight & giveaway: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

About the book:
Celestine North lives a perfect life.

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

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

She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

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

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

Add it to your TBR pile

Cecilia’s Top 5 YA Novels

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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

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

Purchase a copy on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, just what is Everything, Everything about?

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

This is essentially the sum of Maddy’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Top 5 books I love but haven’t spoken about in a while

Gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve done (much less remembered to do) a Top 10 Tuesday feature, but when I saw this week’s topic, I just simply couldn’t resist. Brought to you by the fabulous bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesday (I’m choosing to do a top 5 this time around) is a weekly meme featuring different bookish topic each week.

This week we’re chatting about books we’ve loved by haven’t spoken about in a while – a subject that brings me so much joy because as fabulous as it is talking about all the new releases we love, there’s nothing better than potentially introducing a reader to a backlisted title that still deserves to be spoken about.

So, in honour of this week’s topic, here’s my list of top 5 books I love, but haven’t spoken about in a while.

1. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

I’ve loved Sarah Ockler’s books since I first read Twenty Boy Summer and over the years that love for her writing has only increased.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, a book I view as a contemporary retelling of The Little Mermaid, is an absolute gem of a book and features a diverse cast of characters, magical realism and tells the story of a girl who has to figure out how to find her inner voice and strength after losing her physical voice. 

This book, inspired by mermaid lore and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, is a novel about family, friendships, and learning to let go.

It’s a novel about learning to let people in and it’s a book about learning to accept the things that you can’t change. Beautifully written, it’s a multicultural read that ticks all the diversity boxes without any of the characters ever feeling like they’re token caricatures.   

2. All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

Quite possibly one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking reads I’ve read to date, Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s in Me is a novel that, by all accounts, shouldn’t work, but does.

With its disjointed narrative structure, second person point of view and snippets shifting between past and present, this is certainly a book that doesn’t work for everyone, but boy, oh boy, did it work so very beautifully for me.

Our protagonist is Judith, a girl who can’t speak as a result of an incredibly traumatising event in her past. Isolated, and ostracised, Judith is a girl whose silence has set her apart from the community.

Notice how I seem to love books about heroines finding their voices in the midst of darkness? All the Truth That’s in Me is a book that is all that and so much more. 

It’s a novel that also explores prejudice, the narrow-mindedness and mob mentality prevalent in some small-town communities and examines how easy it is to form an opinion based on what you see and not what you know. It’s a beautifully written and heart-breaking read, and one I’ll recommend until my dying day.

3. The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Another contemporary gem with splashes of magical realism is Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s The Apple Tart of Hope.  A boy gone missing, a girl who refuses to believe he’s dead and a misunderstanding that nearly ruins it all.

Exploring themes of love, loss, family and friendship, this little read is that pick-me-up you need when you feel like giving up. 

It’s an exquisitely written novel that is filled with characters whose stories will grip you to your core and have you rooting for them.

This novel is also not so much an instant recipe for hope, but is rather a journey that takes you there – one that helps you to meld through the tangled mess that is life and take down the obstacles one by one. 

Oscar, Meg and Stevie are three characters who are unforgettable, not just for their quirkiness, but also for their strong bond that pulses throughout the book.

You can read my review here. 

4. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m well aware that this standalone from Maggie has a lot of divisive opinions about it, but I, for one absolutely adored it. 

From my review:

“Based on a combination of Scottish and Irish mythology, Maggie brings to life a world that's deadly, untamed and indescribably beautiful.

Take deadly flesh-eating, blood-hungry water horses, add a horse whisperer who is as part of the horses as he is part of the sea and include a feisty, snappishly abrasive but incredibly brave heroine who dares to defy convention.”

It’s a luscious read that’s all the more worth it for its slow and languid pace.

Read more here.

5. Revolution by Jennifer Donnolly

Jennifer Donnolly’s Revolution is one of those books that I find myself including in so many lists. Favourite novel of all time? Check. Gorgeous historical fiction reads? Check. Books featuring ridiculously courageous teens fighting in the midst of a revolution? Double check.

You name the list, I’ll probably find a way to feature this book in it.

Combining music and history, this gorgeous read employs a dual-narrative structure and is narrated by two very different heroines whom, at first glance, have nothing in common. 

One lives in modern day New York and makes a new life for herself in Paris, while the other lives in France in the midst of the French Revolution.

Two opposite sides of the coin, yet connected by more than they’ll ever know.  The last bits of my review sums it up:

“ It's a beautiful, brutal and bloody tale of music and ghosts of the past. It’s a tale of guillotines and massacres, and a tale of romance and catacombs.

It’s a story where the dead come alive and history is relived through the eyes of an angry, sad girl who, in the midst of her downward spiral, finds that sometimes the biggest revolutions that happen are the ones that occur within.”

You can read my full review here.

What are some of the books that you love but haven’t spoken about in a while? Leave your link in the comments section so that I can check out your list!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Author guest post & giveaway: Misfits and Freaks by Joanne Macgregor (Giveaway now closed)

Hiya lovelies

Today I’d like to welcome SA YA author, Joanne Macgregor to my blog today. 

I’m pretty excited for today’s post because Joanne not only touches on a subject that is close to my heart and one that is relatable on every level, but Jo’s also generously made up a swag package filled with all sorts of goodies (including a signed copy of Scarred, her latest contemporary YA novel) and is offering one lucky reader the chance to win the entire hamper.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent the majority of my teenaged years feeling like I don’t belong.  To me I was the ugly, fat and mostly friendless girl who was socially awkward and generally inept at anything relating to the development of any life skills whatsoever.

And, truth be told, adulthood hasn’t changed my perception about myself much. I know. I know. We’re so ridiculously cruel to ourselves, aren’t we?

Which is why I’m so glad for the post that Jo’s written today.

Her book, Scarred features a protagonist who is emotionally traumatised after an accident leaves her disfigured, and in today’s post Joanne talks about how many of us feel defined by the crippling voices inside of our heads.

Before I hand over to Jo, here’s some more info about the book, followed by her guest post and giveaway details.  

About the book (Add it to your TBR pile here):
Sloane Munster had the perfect life, until she didn’t. Now seventeen year-old Sloane is trying to reboot her life after a serious accident left her badly scarred and emotionally traumatized.

Starting her senior year at a different school, she recognizes Luke Naughton, a swimmer whom she once had a crush on, in her new class. But when she smiles at him, he glares back with revulsion and she’s sure he’s disgusted by her ugly scar.

No matter how hard she tries to keep out of his way, life keeps bringing them together and despite misunderstandings and guilty secrets, the chemistry between them sparks.

Meanwhile, tensions are mounting at their school where bullying is rife and Sloane is not the most deeply scarred person.

Sharp with bittersweet humor, Scarred is an intense, beautiful, compelling story of life, death, damage, and fighting for love against all the odds.

Over to Joanne: Misfits and Freaks

Hey Tammy and YA-lovers, thanks for giving me some airtime on your blog!

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of my latest manuscript – a standalone YA romance about a girl with a standout physical feature that makes her feel abnormal, ugly and freakish.

When it came to writing the last chapter, I wanted several examples of the different things that could make teens feel odd, so I thought I’d crowdsource it.

I posted this question on Facebook: What about yourself, when you were a self-conscious teen, made you feel like a freak?

I was astounded by the response.

Everybody – everybody! – felt weird because of something.

Some felt like misfits because of physical features – they felt too tall (or too short); too plump or too skinny; or had curly hair, or red hair and freckles, bad skin or physical anomalies; had to wear braces or spectacles; or developed (boobs and periods) too early or too late, or had boobs that were too big or not big enough.

Others felt set apart by their behaviour not matching the norm (coming later to dating and kissing, for example, or preferring reading to sports or clubbing) or having odd parents (poor or eccentric or with mental health problems or just plain embarrassing).

Many felt that they just couldn’t get it “right” – they wore the “wrong” fashions, or lived in poor areas, or listened to music that wasn’t cool, or their identity didn’t match the usual way of being for their gender (tomboy girls, sensitive boys).

Each commenter felt like everybody else had been staring at their oddity, even though some of these were so obscure and minor as to be nearly invisible.

One woman confessed that she had been obsessed by not having the usual sort of indentation at the knee crease when she sat cross legged – she had a bulge instead of a hollow and thought it just looked “wrong!”

It seems like anything (good or bad) that made you seem (or even just feel, to yourself) different, made you feel like a freak and a misfit. Anything that made you stand out set you up as a target for bullies reacting against their own inadequacies and inferiorities.

It’s almost as if the end goal of adolescence was to become a boring, mediocre average that matched some imagined and elusive statistical norm so that you would blend entirely into the background and disappear.

As if average was a camouflage that would protect you from being singled out and targeted.
Maybe it would have. But it would also have robbed us of the things that make us distinctive, irreplaceable and exceptional, the things that make us uniquely ourselves.

All the comments, bar one, were from women. Is that because societal standards of “acceptable” and “beautiful” are tougher for us, or because boys turned their anger outwards in aggression rather than inwards in self-critique, or just because men find it less comfortable to share their feelings and experiences publically?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The bottom-line is, the secret conviction that you were abnormal or ugly or weird in some way, seems to be a near-universal experience. Certainly it was more common than each of us, so obsessed with trying to hide our skew teeth or fat bums, ever believed.

While you were agonizing about your knock-knees, the girl sitting standing in front of you at school assembly was worrying whether you were judging her calves for being too big.

I think nobody felt fully comfortable in their skin. Nobody really felt confident, some just faked it better than others. We all felt like freaks and misfits at that time of our lives, and for many the feeling never quite went away.

For most, the memories of being teased and taunted and bullied don’t fade – you never truly leave high school.

As I read comment after comment, a massive sense of regret filled me. All that angsting and obsessing, all that time and energy spent comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves wanting, inferior, defective – what a sad waste of time and youth.

When I look back at how beautiful we were back then, I wonder how we never realised it at the time, how we never understood that what makes us beautiful has much less to do with how we looked, and much more to do with who we were.

There’s a part in my book, Scarred (also a YA contemporary romance) where the facially scarred heroine’s therapist tells her to “take back your eyes!”

“You’ve stopped seeing,” she said. “You’ve stopped looking at anything or anyone else. It’s like your eyes have rolled back inwards and all you can see is yourself and that scar. You’ve reduced yourself to a three inch red line!”

“It’s actually closer to four inches.”

Shrinks aren’t supposed to let their emotions show, but I guess she was pretty frustrated with me by then, because her ears went red and she banged the palm of her hand on the arm of her chair.

“It’s ridiculous! Take back your eyes and look around you at the world. Look at a sunset, watch ants walking in a line on the sidewalk, look at other people – and not just to see how they notice and react to your face!”

“Okay, okay! I’ll try.”

“Either do or do not – there is no try!” she said in a Yoda voice which made me smile – a real smile, not my scar-smirk – but it disappeared with her next words.

“This week, I’m giving you homework.”

“You get homework in therapy?” Figures.

“You do. Take some of that money you feel so guilty about having, and buy a nice new digital camera.”

“My homework is to buy a camera?”

“Your homework is to take pictures. I’m hoping,” she said “hoping”, but from her expression it looked more like she was begging and pleading, perhaps even praying, “that it will force you to look outside of yourself. To look at other people, other things, and to stop focusing so obsessively on your own face. You’re more focused on your appearance than a beauty queen – it’s a kind of reverse vanity!”

 Sloane, the main character in the book, feels ugly and abnormal, and part of her growth as a character is to learn to accept herself, scars and all. I’ve collected a couple of goodies around that theme for the swag bag giveaway and I hope the winner takes them to heart.

Last word: When I look back to who I was at sixteen, I have one more regret: I wish I’d worn a bikini!

Huge thanks for stopping by today Joanne!

And now time for a giveaway!

The lovely Joanne has compiled the following hamper for one lucky reader:
1. Signed print copy of the book,

2. Tissues (for when you cry in the sad parts)

3. A soothing therapy gel eye-mask (to reduce eye puffiness after crying at the sad parts)

4. A nail file (for when you bite your nails in the tense parts)

5. Revlon scarlet nail polish and heart-shaped mirror compact (for beauty repairs)

6. An inspirational magnet (to remind you how beautiful you are, and how you should just be you)

7. A Mani (The Lucky Cat) "courage" charm (to remind you to be brave, because it takes courage to be different)

Want a chance to win? All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which novel helped you coped through some of the worst times in your life.

Giveaway is open until Monday, 21 MarchOpen to SA readers only (but don’t fear, an international comp is on the way soon).

UPDATE: Congratulations to Shanice Singh, who has won the swag bag, which includes all of the above-mentioned items. Shanice, please contact me as per instructions in the comment section below.

For more information about Joanne, check out her Goodreads profile and follow her on Twitter.