Monday, February 28, 2011

Booktalk: Swoony, dreamy titles

Time for another book talk session on the blog today... 

One book I'm really excited about reading is The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella. It's an historical fiction novel that boasts a gorgeous cover featuring a model with luscious russet locks and coral red lips.

Admittedly the cover was a major drawcard for me, but what really grabbed my attention, was the actual title that conjured up an immediate image of high court intrigue during the Renaissance and imagining the taste of ice-cream flavours in a different time period screamed instant must-read for me.

For me, choosing a book is not something that is based on choosing a favourite author (although when nothing else appeals to me, I do revert to what I know best). Rather, I go by on the title and the words on the book jacket.

Being a word nerd, I tend to be attracted to quixotic and swoony titles that convey atmosphere. For example, I was looking through my list of books to-read and realised that there are many of the books that I chose based on its title.

I haven't read any of these yet, but I thought I'd highlight a  3 books that I've selected simply because the title appealed to me:

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
(This is not kind of book I'd normally read, but this title just makes me think of milky coloured moons made of glass and memories)

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
(This title makes me think of bittersweet, otherworldy, lingering songs of melancholy. From what I've heard about this book, I'd say Maggie couldn't have picked a better title for a book. I really can't wait to read this one. I also love her titles Shiver and Linger but couldn't put all of them here).

Nocturne by Syrie James
(Nocturne is usually a piece of music that is inspired by nightfall. And music and night often form and combine to create a dark symphony of supernatural romance and clandestine splendour. And the supernatural here is a vampire. Apparently he plays the piano too.

And you know how much I love hot boys/men who play musical instruments. And if they're hot men of the night? Well, even better.  See, how book titles can make you instinctively guess at something before you read the book?)

Of course, I have found that sometimes the book with simple and seemingly ordinary titles end up being some of the best books I've ever read.

Some of my favourites include One Day by David Nicholls and Forbidden (Ok, ok... I think that at the end of the day, Forbidden is a title that will appeal to most people, but simply because it represents something that is taboo - the title itself is a common one, if that makes sense to you) by Tabitha Suzuma. (I've linked to both reviews so that you can see just how much I've been gushing about these two books). 

And finally, there are of course the books with gorgeous titles that end up being massive disappointments. I've had qutie a few bad experiences, but the most disappointing experience I've had was with Wicked Lovely.

Gorgeous title, beautiful cover but man, what a hell of a disappointing read for me. My fairy soul nearly died of disappointment because it was one of those books I really wanted to love, but JUST couldn't. The world created was beautiful, but I never could connect with any of the characters, especially the main ones.

But I suppose that it's the price one has to pay for judging a book based on its title. Books, like life, is very much a hit and miss thing. Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you don't.

Anyway, that's it from me for this week. What I'd love to know is do you choose books based on its title? Have you had similar experiences to mine? And which book, based on its title, has disappointed you the most?

P.S. I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to visiting any of your blogs lately. Insanely busy (SIGH)  - I will be catching up soon though and not only that, but I'll have a surprise up on my blog very soon too. Expect a new giveaway and some special guests on my blog soon. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Angel and Dark Heart Rising

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's choices are Dark Angel by Eden Maguire and Dark Heart Rising by Lee Monroe.

I haven't read any of their books yet, and I have the first book in Lee Monroe's series on my TBR list. I adore the covers and love the premise of both novels.


Here are some brief summaries about the books.
 

Dark Angel by Eden Maguire
Tania's heart belongs to Orlando.

Nothing can rip them apart.

Until the seduction begins in a flurry of glamour and magic, music and parties all orchestrated by the mysterious and mesmerising Zoran, an iconic rock star who has retired to a remote ranch in the nearby mountains.


And there Tania meets the dark side. Can she resist temptation?

(I know, I know... it doesn't give much away, but it doesn't it just make you curious?

I must add that the Dark Angel cover kind of reminds me of the cover for The Vespertine, but I love it anyway as the colour of the dress is very striking.
)

Next up is:


Dark Heart Rising by Lee Monroe
I haven't read the first book in this series which is called Dark Heart Forever (and which I really want to by the way), but I'm still looking forward to this one anyway, as it looks like it's a great series.)

Summary:
Jane and Luca's story continues ...but not quite as they had planned.

When challenges and threats from the immortal world of Nissilum rip the young lovers apart, Jane is bereft. Without Luca's dancing green eyes, and gentle smile, Jane feels lost, sad and alone.


But then a trip to Paris with her grandmother thrusts her in the path of the amiable Soren - a kindred spirit who may be just the distraction she needs ...

Meanwhile in Nissilum, Luca struggles with the loyalties and expectations that come with being a part of the immortal world.


A world that is about to be shaken at its very core: rumblings of mounting unrest are spreading, and with rumours of an angel rebellion growing no creature is safe -- especially not a mortal girl who has fallen in love with a wolf boy.

That's it from me this week... What's on your WoW list this week?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book review: Wind and Fire

Wind and Fire
One girl's magical awakening will bring about a whole new adventure and test the limits of her strength like she's never known before.

Wind and Fire by Cheryl Landmark (Asylett Press)
19-year old Tenya does not have it easy.

With her mother being missing for more than 16 years, Tenya finds herself stuck in the day to day drudgery of doing household chores, with a melancholy father who barely notices her and a step-mother who treats her like the dust of Cinderella's shoes.

All her life she's been plagued by mysterious and strange visions, all the while yearning for the presence of the mother she's never forgotten.

What she doesn't realise is that life is about to abruptly catapult her into a new adventure.

When she's kidnapped in the middle of the night, she suddenly finds herself on a strange, new, exciting and dangerous journey that will unleash powers she's never known she'd had and will test her strength and character.

Somewhere, out there, Zardonne, ruler of the Dark Rift (a place desolate, barren and devoid of life - barring the presence of hideous demons), is plotting to invade every corner of the surrounding villages in search of power, authority and mastery over all.

It's up to Tenya and her new companions to discover the magic within her, search for the mother she always felt was alive and together, defeat the devious and demonic master of darkness.

Review:
I am really surprised that I actually ended up enjoying this novel.

The one thing that always makes me nervous is when an author asks me to review a book and I end up not liking it. I do love writing honest reviews, but rarely post reviews on books that I feel have no redeeming quality at all.

I have to admit to being a bit reluctant to read this book as I do think that the cover of the novel is uninspired and doesn't give off that "must-read" feeling that it should. I know one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in one way or another, i do think that everyone is swayed by lovely cover artwork.

Luckily for me, my eagerness to become acquainted with a relatively unknown author's work overwhelmed any reluctance I felt towards reading the actual book. And even though the book has its flaws, I am really glad that I ended up reading it.

At the beginning of the novel, we meet a rather unhappy Tenya. Currently residing with her father and stepmother, Tenya is forced to endure hardship under the iron-fisted rule of said stepmother.

She immediately gains our empathy as she is forced to endure the awful treatment at the hand of her stepmother while her very absent father is rarely at home. Of course, even while she labours away, the sweet, dutiful and sheltered Tenya obviously wishes for freedom.

The old saying, "Be careful what you wish for", applies here as Tenya gets her wish, but just not in the way that she expects.

One night, after standing up to her stepmother, she is kidnapped by two minions of a Dark Lord whose nefarious plans involve getting rid of her, along with the mother that she's always sensed was alive.

What I really liked about the novel is that Cheryl does an incredible job of creating a sheltered character whose growth throughout the novel is set at a realistic and very believable pace.

From living in a sheltered and relatively quiet village, to travelling on a quest to find her mother, Tenya is forced to adapt to circumstances and to adjust whatever perils are thrown her way.

Luckily for her, she's rescued along the way by one of her mother's oldest companions and who quickly becomes a trusty side-kick and friend.

The growing friendship was something that I could easily believe and I thought that it was really great that the trusty sidekick proved to be as great of an alley as he did.

I also liked the fact that when her magic finally revealed itself, she wasn't instantly sure of herself and her ability to use it. It was great to see her being tried and tested and made me root for her even more. I also enjoyed the world-building in this novel, although I did find it overly descriptive at times.

I did have 2 major issues with this book though and the one is that the final confrontation dragged out a little too long for me.

At 232 pages, the novel isn't all that long, but reading a long and drawn-out battle like the one in this novel, made me actually just want to rush through the novel to get to the end.

My second issue with this book (and it's probably the one issue that prevented me from enjoying the novel in its entirety) is some of the dialogue.  For me, one of the important things about enjoying a novel is that when I read the novel and its dialogue, I don't actually want to feel as if I'm reading a story.

For me, the dialogue needs to be so convincing, that even though I'm reading a book, the book needs to sway me into believing that this story has actually happened.  I realise that this is somewhat paradoxical, but when I'm escaping into a fantasy novel (or any other novel for that matter), then the fantasy needs feel and real for me.

Which means, the dialogue needs to be believable enough for me to be convinced that the whole fantasy world is real in all of its fantastical glory. Does that make sense?

But, that's not to say that I didn't enjoy the novel, because I did.

I think it's a solid effort on the author's part and I think the novel will appeal to a broad range of people, especially younger readers. The book is filled with tons of adventure, a brave and very likeable heroine, and a lot of interesting allies who all serve to make Tenya's quest all the more interesting for it.

It's a book that definitely deserves the chance to be read!

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Wind and Fire in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Cheryl Landmark. This has in no way influenced or affected my review and opinion of the book.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Drought blog tour (author guest post): When I'm not writing

I don't know about you but one of the things that fascinate me most about authors (published or in the process of being published), is how they manage to find the time to write.  As someone who works as a full time online book journalist (which is just a part of my job description), I barely have time to blog and juggling my time tends to become a rather tricky feat.

Yet, somehow these fabulous authors not only manage to get their writing done, but they also manage to balance it all out by finding time to do and participate in all the things that they love, apart from writing ('Tis an art that I have yet to get right)..

This is why I'm very excited to be hosting Pam Bachorz, author of the  recently released YA dystopian fiction novel Drought on my blog today as part of the Drought blog tour arranged by Jessica and Kari over at The Teen Book Scene.

In today's blog tour stop, Pam tells us what she does when she's not writing. I really enjoyed reading this as there are many of the things she lists that I love doing as well. Especially the bit about board games and word games.

Without further ado, here's Pam's list of things that she loves to do when she's not writing.

When I'm not writing by Pam Bachorz
 

Well, I'm the mother to a kindergartener and I also work full-time for a textbook publisher, so that tends to take up a lot of time!

But when I can make some time, I have developed an obsession for what I call "flail fitness": aerobics classes with a lot of dance moves.


My ultimate favorite is Body Jam but I also love Zumba and have gotten hooked on the Kinect dance game for the days when I can't get to a "flail" class.

I also am the mostly symbolic leader of a Bunco group--a bunch of women who meet up once a month to play a dice game and gossip.

I love it; I started the group when we moved to DC three years ago and I've made some of my closest DC friends through that group.

We try to make a point of getting out and exposing our Little Dude to culture regularly, so we visit DC's amazing selection of museums pretty often. Most recently we went to see a special Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Smithsonian.

And I love to travel wherever, whenever, even if it's just an overnight to the next closest city. My sister lives outside of NYC so she and my brother-in-law are frequent victims of our love of travel! Not frequent enough, though.

Finally, I adore board and word games. The minute someone says "Monopoly", "Bananagrams" or "Dominoes", I am THERE!

About the book:
Drought by Pam Bachorz

Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.

She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power.

But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.


So she stays.

But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong.

He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world.

Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?


Doesn't it sound fabulous? I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!

Thanks to Kari and Jessica for having me host Pam on my blog today and to Pam for stopping by on my blog today. Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour stops here.

Additional author info:
-Follow Pam on twitter here.
- For more info on her books, bio and any news relating to her books, you can also visit her website here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: After Midnight

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's choice is After Midnight by Lynn Viehl. I stumbled upon this one quite by accident and even though it is another vampire story, it did pique my interest enough to add it to my TBR pile. In fact, I think this is one of those books that will maybe just end up surprising me.


After Midnight (The Youngbloods #1) by Lynn Viehl
Sophomore Catlyn Youngblood is used to the nomadic existence she and her two older brothers have shared since the death of their parents.
 

When they settle down for good in the sleepy backwoods town of Lost Lake, Florida, Cat thinks they might finally fit in. Instead, they're shunned by the locals.

While riding her horse late one night, Cat meets an enigmatic and handsome boy named Jesse Raven.

Even more strange than her overpowering attraction to him is Jesse's apparent aversion to the sun. As their attraction intensifies, long-kept secrets come to light.


Cat learns that the Ravens are a centuries-old vampire clan . . . and worse still, that she and her brothers are descendents of Abraham Van Helsing, the world-famous vampire hunter. Mortal enemies by blood, the two families do all they can to keep them apart. But Cat and Jesse will risk everything to be together—including death.

That's it from me for this week. What's on your WoW list this week?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book talk: The book that wouldn't end

Today is a start of a new feature on my blog. As most of you know, I tend to post reviews and do a few memes with the odd book post or two. I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and do more regular book discussion posts.

I haven't set out a set time for these Book talk features yet, but I do know that I want to do more of them regularly.

So without further ado, here's my first book talk discussion post. Feel free to join in on the debate. I always love hearing from you. The column below, is one I've originally written for the monthly newsletter I send out (Michelle, I promise to tell you more about this in a future post), but I thought I'd rework it and post it here as well.

The book that wouldn't end.
Not too long ago, I read a book called Angelology.

It was one of the most interesting books that I've had in my hands over the course of last year, but I have to confess that I found myself wishing throughout the novel that the book would just come to a friggin' end.

As an avid bibliophile, I can happily (and easily) immerse myself in the world of a thick, juicy novel. And yet, the fact that I actually enjoyed Angelology but secretly hoped it would end made me wonder:

At what point does a book become too long of a read?

Before Angelology, I was convinced that only boring books were excessively long, but the fact that I enjoyed the book and still found it excessively long suddenly had me questioning all my previous notions. 

It usually never takes me all that long to finish a novel, but with Angelology, I suffered through the book for a good 3-4 months max.

Of course, I realise that I could have just ditched the book, but there's this nagging, persistent voice that always insists on giving the book a decent chance (there are a few exceptions to this rule though, but that's a post for another day). Besides, as mentioned previously, I actually did end up enjoying the book to an extent.

Still, I can't help but ponder on the question: If the book was a good book, then surely the reading experience should by default be a great one too? Apparently not so for me.

I suppose it may boil down to the fact that there are various degrees of comparison as to just how great a good book is, but it somehow all just seems so unlikely that there are boring good books. It's all such an annoying paradox to me. 

I asked some of my colleagues at work what they thought - and besides receiving the rather obvious answer, here's what they had to say.

My friend Robyn: "A book becomes way too long for me when I've reached chapters 3-4 and the author is still introducing characters to me. It's an absolute pet hate of mine."

Another colleague said that when she finds herself having to spend more time going through a dictionary than reading, then the book loses its appeal.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this though. When does a book (good or bad) become too long of a read for you? And which books (although you've enjoyed them), did you find ended up being a laborious read of note?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

(A Classic) Book review: Like Water for Chocolate

Since Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies is hosting love month on her blog, I thought I'd post a review paying homage to my favourite love story of all time. It's not a YA fiction novel, but it is a novel that introduced me to magic realism - a genre that I adore to this day.

So what makes for the perfect love story?  Here's my humble opinion and my recipe for...

... The perfect love story:

(Warning: This recipe may induce plenty of gushing. See notes below to see how severely affected this reviewer was... and still is)

1. Take one book
2. Add a few sumptuous recipes
3. Infuse with touches of magic realism
4. Add a heap full of fragrant flavours
5. Pour in a cupful of earthy, human emotion
6. Mix in a healthy dose of unresolved lust, tension and heated gazes

Pour in a bowl, mix them all together and watch as the perfect love story unfolds.  Allow it to simmer, heat and send your system into a seductive frenzy that will leave you feeling dizzy with its luscious writing and mouth-watering recipes.

Side notes: Be sure to flush out all superfluous ingredients such as jealous sisters, forbidding, spiteful mothers and outdated, traditional rules that threaten to spoil and get in the way of a happy ending.  

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Chained to Mexican tradition at the time, Tita, the youngest of three daughters is gifted with an exquisitely unique cooking skill.

Confined to a dreary future of serving and attending to her mother's needs till her death, she is forbidden the right to marry (according to the staunch rules amongst traditional Mexican families at the time).

Naturally tradition finds itself flailing in mid-air upon the arrival of the forbidden - which just so happens to come in the form of the very delicious Pedro.

Enchanted by the utterly beguiling Tita, it doesn't take him long to fall in love with the extraordinarily talented cook.

When he tries to win her hand in marriage, his request is vehemently refused by Mama Elena, Tita's staunch, unyielding and spiteful mother. To try and soften the blow, Mama Elena offers her older daughter Rosuara to him instead.

Out of sheer desperation Pedro agrees to marry her - only doing so to remain close to Tita.

For the next 22 years, Tita and Pedro are forced to move in the same circle, swathed in their unconsummated passion for each other – and kept apart by ensuing events which affects everyone in the family…

Review:

As I've mentioned before, this book is the book that introduced me to a genre that to this day still leaves me enchanted. I actually read this years ago, but the contents of it are still as vividly imprinted into my mind as if I just finished it yesterday.

One has to marvel at a book with the capacity to instantly transport you into its earthy, vibrant and voluptuously decadent world, even though you haven't read it in years.

The element of magic is a very strong feature in this novel and is written in monthly instalments of magical and sumptuous recipes – each of which plays a pivotal part in the events that follow within the story.

Each dish that Tita prepares speaks of the emotions that she cannot always express when around her family and is used as a means to express her love to Pedro and often has comic and heartbreaking effects on everyone else who consumes her dishes.

The writing, the characters - everything about this novel has a sensuality about it that always leans on the precipice of something greater. It's not what is said that makes the novel so fantastic, but how the author invites you to use your imagination with her sensual, decadent words.

Every word is smooth as velvet chocolate, melts on your tongue and lulls your system into a drug-induced state of hazy, hedonistic pleasure.

In short, the book is an aphrodisiac.

And if you don't quite believe me, I'd highly recommend reading that shower scene.  (*Tammy pauses to recover from a bout of swooning*)

I'd love to reveal more about the characters, but for once, I'm going to just tell you that this is a book where the characters, their emotions, interactions and connections need to be experienced firsthand - especially the electric chemistry between Tita and Pedro.

What I can say though, is that their love story is a story I would want for my own... except with the horrible mother and evil sister of course.

Part mythical and partly historical, Like water for chocolate is an enchantingly magical, sumptuous feast of a novel touched with a quality of earthiness and idiosyncratic grandeur that makes for a delicious read…

[Tammy would like to apologise for making any of her blog readers gag on this review. And for abusing the word earthy. She couldn't help it. It's the book's fault.

She also thinks that it's a good thing that she's all the way in South Africa - if she was anywhere near her blog readers, she'd probably force you to read it in some way or the other. *grins*

Finally, Tammy shall now proceed to stop referring to herself in third person mode. Gosh, how annoying am I? ]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trailer highlights and contest winner

Wow! A whole week has passed by since I've done an update on my blog. So sorry about that as work deadlines took priority and left me with no time to do any blog posts. Boo!

Anyway, first up, is a contest winner announcement. Thanks to everyone who entered the So Shelly giveaway. I thought I was the only one who was looking forward to reading this book, but judging from the fantastic responses to the entries, there are quite a number of you who are also keen on reading this.

Without further ado, the winner of this giveaway is Aisle B!

Congratulations! A copy of So Shelly will be making its way to you very soon,For everyone else, don't worry, I've got a new contest coming up soon, so stay tuned for that!

Moving along to some trailer highlights. I haven't done this in quite some time and thought I'd share a few trailers that I've stumbled across.

First up is:



Book:
Of Light and Darkness: The Vampire's Daughter by Shayne Leighton

About the book
:
Abandoned as an infant in Prague, Charlotte Ruzikova was raised by Valek, one of the last Vampires left alive. Genocide and war conflicts their secret society nestled deep in the woods of Eastern Europe.

But when the dictator in power becomes threatened by evil lurking in Valek's past, Charlotte must find a way to fight for the only one she's ever loved and the only thing she has ever truly believed in...and all before the sun comes up...

... I have to admit that I'm absolutely not loving the book's actual cover, but do think that the premise of the story sounds interesting.

Also, the book is set in the Czech republic, so I'm keen to see just how the story plays itself out, especially against a backdrop that sounds so different. Love the book trailer.

Up next is....



Book:
Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

About the book:

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she'd be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that's exactly what happened.

Face-to-face with dark forces, spell-binding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

.... I've been pretty excited about this book for a while now. I don't think many people really know about this book, but I love the idea that the shape shifter is something other than a wolf.

Also, the magic and mystical worlds? Pretty much had me sold. The book trailer is certainly an interesting one too.
..

And finally.... a trailer taken from the book I'm currently reading:


Book:
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

About the book:
When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.

Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.
... I'm not all that far into this novel yet, but am really enjoying it so far. Jenny writes with a remarkable understanding and insight into the lives of the teens who are affected by a traumatic event and writes in such a way that so far, this book has just been keeping me on edge.

That's it from me for now...

Will do some catch ups tomorrow. Both my contact lenses have broken, so I'm taking quite a bit of strain as my glasses haven't been helping me much.

In the meantime, have you stumbled upon any fab new trailers lately? Let me know... I'm always on the hunt for new book trailers.