Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shadowplay Blog Tour: Laura Lam’s Top 5 Favourite Ya Fantasy Novels

As part of the Shadowplay blog tour, I’m excited to, once again welcome Laura Lam to my blog today. For those who don’t know, or haven’t heard about Laura Lam’s books before, Shadowplay is the sequel to her debut YA fantasy novel, Pantomime.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of her blog tour for the first book (you can check out my review here), and am super thrilled to be part of the tour for Shadowplay.

During the Pantomime blog tour, Laura stopped by an introduced us to the world within her book, complete with complete picture tour. If you’ve checked out her books on Goodreads, you’ll see that not only has she’s posted a visual representation of what the world within Pantomime is like (a similar post was featured on my blog), but she’s also done one for Shadowplay.

I’d suggest you visit Goodreads and check out them out and add it to your TBR pile:
Pantomime
Shadowplay


In the meantime, before I hand over to Laura, here’s some info on Shadowplay:

(Note: If you haven’t read Pantomime yet, you may want to skip the summery) 


About Shadowplay:

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske.

When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus—the runaway daughter of a noble family.

And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey

Over to Laura – welcome and thanks again for visiting my blog!

Top 5 YA fantasy novels

I’ve tried to come up with a spread of both recent reads I loved and ones I fell in love with as a teen. I’ve listed them from most recently read. 


1. Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott.

I read this last year and absolutely loved it. It’s a retelling of Cinderella in a pseudo-Medieval Japan-type world. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and evocative, I definitely recommend it.

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


2. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman.

This is another book I read last year and absolutely adored. It started out a bit slow for me, and I almost even put it down about 50 pages in.

I’m so glad I stuck with it, though, because I ended up staying up until 3.30 in the morning to read it, and I NEVER do that. I love my sleep.

I can’t wait for the sequel!

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.

Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers.

As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion.

Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs.

While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 

3. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.

I’m counting all three as one book. I remember reading this series when

I was just thinking about writing YA and thinking “Yes! I want to write something clever and beautiful, with a fully-realised world.” Also, I want a daemon. And that ending :’(

In "The Golden Compass," readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own--nor is her world.

In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal daemon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.


"The Subtle Knife" is the second part of the trilogy that began with "The Golden Compass." That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world.

In "The Subtle Knife," readers are introduced to Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England. Will is only twelve years old, but he bears the responsibilities of an adult.


Following the disappearance of his explorer-father, John Parry, during an expedition in the North, Will became parent, provider and protector to his frail, confused mother.

And it's in protecting her that he becomes a murderer, too: he accidentally kills a man who breaks into their home to steal valuable letters written by John Parry. After placing his mother in the care of a kind friend, Will takes those letters and sets off to discover the truth about his father.

"The Amber Spyglass" brings the intrigue of "The Golden Compass" and "The Subtle Knife "to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.
 


4. Immortals Quartet – Tamora Pierce.
 

I went through a period where I basically only read Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, and Mercedes Lackey.

I remember spending Christmas gift vouchers on them, or huddling in the corner of the store to read them, or getting them from the library.

I liked that many of them had strong female characters, and I remember in particular loving this story which featured a girl with a kinship with animals.

Cover copy of Wild Magic, the first book in the series:

Young Daine's knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall.

Soon it becomes clear that Daine's talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical.

Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile. 


5. The Lost Years of Merlin – T.A. Barron.

This was another series I loved. I got the first one as a Christmas present and read all of them.

I loved the idea of learning about young Merlin.

I haven’t read these in about 12 years, so wondering how it’d hold up on a re-read (sometimes I’m afraid to do that and discover I don’t like them as much as an adult, nostalgia non-withstanding)

This American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults is a brilliant epic adventure dealing with the literary wizard.

A young boy who has no identity nor memory of his past washes ashore on the coast of Wales and finds his true name after a series of fantastic adventures.


Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Thanks for sharing your top 5 with us Laura!


About Laura:Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies.

Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home.

This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Pantomime was released February 2013 through Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. The sequel, Shadowplay, will follow in January 2014.

Where you can find Laura online:

Goodreads
Website

Pantomime page (including ordering links)
Shadowplay page (including ordering links)
Twitter: @LR_Lam

Facebook
Pinterest
Tumblr

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

A genre-defying novel that combines elements of science fiction and gas lamp fantasy to create a world filled with auras, dreamscapes, humans with supernatural abilities and a whole realm of otherworldly creatures. 

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

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon  (Bloomsbury)

I’ve been reading and reviewing books for a good number of years now.

In this time, I’ve come across books that have had me a) shaking my fists (for wasting my time), b) being stricken with grief (at the sheer beauty and tragedy of it all) and c), marvelling in wonder (while losing myself in a world filled with sheer phantasmagorical splendour).

I’ve found the words to express how deeply I loved the book, and I’ve been able to give constructive views on why certain books just didn’t work for me.

What I’ve never found, until now, is a book that is so good, it practically renders my vocabulary null and void.

The Bone Season is a highly impressive debut novel that features a feisty, strong and take-no-crap-from-anyone kind of heroine that will have you cheering her on all the way, not least because of her ability to jump between dreamscapes, but because of her fighting spirit and her will to survive even in the most inhospitable conditions possible.

And to think that the author’s only 22 years old.

Now, generally speaking, the age of the author is of very little consequence, but when you read and consider the concept and elaborately crafted world within this book, you’ll be left feeling as if you’ve achieved nothing in comparison to what Samantha Shannon’s managed to put down on paper.

Her novel is that incredible.

The publishers no doubt feel the same way, as The Bone Season is touted as the first book in a seven book series.

When it comes to this novel, let me start off by giving you some advice: if you’re the kind of reader who likes to read more than one book at a time (which I am by the way), I would highly suggest that you make an exception for this book.

It's not just because I think the book is worth getting special attention, but also because the concept makes for a pretty convoluted read.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

The multidimensional world-building, the heterogeneous characters, the caste systems, the various types of clairvoyants described and how the hierarchy of how the political structure within this dystopian society works, require a good portion of your attention. 

Not to mention the lingo that takes some time getting use to.

Oh, and speaking of jargon, If you do find yourself getting confused by some of the terminology being used, check out the glossary of terms at the back. While I could certainly follow the story and loved it for what I experienced from it, the explanations at the back is something that I definitely think will only enhance your reading experience.

So, just what exactly is The Bone Season about?

Combining paranormal and science fiction components, the book is a miasma of wondrous and unsettling imagery, beautiful prose and atmospheric settings. In fact, this book has somewhat of a gas lamp fantasy feel to it, reminding me of a world that’s both futuristic and gothic.

The year is 2059 and the place is Scion London.

19-year old Paige Mahoney is one of the talented unnaturals working in the criminal underworld of SciLo. Employed by a man named Jaxon Hall, Paige earns her keep by scouting the ether, and breaking into other people’s minds to gather any form of information.

Basically what she’s able to do is walk jump from one dreamscape (her own) into another’s.

Scion London’s underground is filled with people like her – unnaturals all gifted with various types and levels of clairvoyancy - with Paige being a dreamwalker, one of the rarest types of voyants and amongst those considered in the highest orders.

Because the Scion government controls all of London, they consider people like Paige dangerous to society. Her existence alone means that a warrant is out for her capture.

What Paige doesn't realise yet is that the repressive society she and her fellow team mates try to survive in, may be part of something far bigger than she could have imagined.

When she's abducted and taken to a city shrouded in secrecy, Paige encounters the Rephaite, an otherworldly race that force and employ clairvoyants into servitude for their own purposes.

Assigned to Warden, one of the highest ranking Rephaites, Paige is forced under his tutelage, and subjected to rigorous training in order to serve the Rephaite's blood-sovereign, Nashira.

What she doesn't know, is that the man whom she considers to be her enemy, has his own motives and that things on the surface, are once again, not all that they seem.

The Bone Season is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read this year. 

With its intricate and ornate setup, the book is a unique foray into a world that's filled with wondering (and not always benevolent) ghosts and diverse forms of extrasensory perception skills.

What is particularly impressive is how strongly developed the cast of characters are.

Paige is the kind of heroine that could give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money. Bold, fierce and strong, her will of iron and stubbornness has ensured that she has both the wits and the street smarts to survive in whatever circumstances she finds herself in.

Her ability to access and walk through various dreamscapes, also ensures that she has an additional advantage in her fight for her freedom. It's interesting to note that even though she's part of a rat pack, so to speak, she's as bound to a system in SciLo's underground as she is to the Rephaite she's forced to serve.

Ironically enough, it's the latter that brings about the epiphany. What I also loved about her is that despite being imprisoned by another race, her compassionate nature still shines through for her fellow people - be they clairvoyants or amaurotic (non-clairvoyants).

Her interactions with the supporting cast of characters gives this novel an additional packing punch and will serve to heighten your curiosity about the different types of clairvoyants in the novel.

I was certainly intrigued by the different types found and have to confess that up until now, I had no idea that there were so many levels and kinds of voyants found. 

I'd go into some detail, but that would ruin the discovery for you. Suffice to say that the way Paige uses her dreamwalking ability, is definitely one of the best parts of this novel.

You'll be pretty amazed by some of the detail that Samantha goes into;  the beautiful descriptions of the dreamscapes, ether and ghostly activity being an absolute favourite of mine. 

On top of this, I was also kept on my toes by the interaction between Warden and Paige.

Understandably Paige feels an enormous amount of antipathy and enmity towards Warden (a secretive and not always easy to decipher character) , but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that although Warden's actions still remain a mystery for the most part, she starts seeing that there's something there, in terms of his motives, that might be worth looking at a second time.

Believe it or not, despite the hostility (mainly from Paige's side), there's an underlying chemistry between them that I couldn't help but pick up on. The end of the book certainly hints at something more, but where it will all lead, is something only the forthcoming books will be able to reveal.

Vastly imaginative, The Bone Season is a book filled with a strong cast of characters, a supernatural world that defies convention and a race of intelligent beings that make formidable allies or enemies - depending on which side you choose. The female villain in this story will especially send chills down your spine.

All in all, it's an impressive debut novel by a brilliant new voice that will leave you wanting even more. I can't wait for the next book to come out.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book spotlight & International giveaway: Forsaken by Sophia Sharp

On the blog today, I’m fortunate enough to be featuring a spotlight on Forsaken, a just-released YA paranormal novel by Sophia Sharp.

About the book:
Nora Colburn was perfectly content in life. A junior in high school, she had good friends, a great family, and did well in school. 

Nothing particularly exciting ever happened where she lived, and everything was stable.

But that all drastically changes when a new student arrives at Nora’s school. Wild rumors swirl about his past, and Nora becomes determined to find out the truth.

As she gets to know the mysterious student, he shares with her an ancient secret... one that may yet put both of them in grave danger.

And for the first time in her life, Nora is exposed to a completely unfamiliar world.

She is swept away on an exhilarating journey that takes her to a place where romance and great destiny may yet await... and where supernatural powers run wild.

Add it on Goodreads.

Read an extract below:

Hunter cut off with a strangled sound, and in an instant, he was at the door. “They’re coming,” he hissed over his shoulder.

“What? Already? You said we’d have until nightfall!”

“I was wrong.” He shut the door quickly and rushed to the opposite wall. “You need to hide.” He pulled back a board to reveal a small cubby in the wall. “Quickly!”

Nora ran without arguing.

“Get in,” he told her, “and don’t make a sound.” Nora nodded. Her pulse raced, and a jolt of adrenaline kicked through her. A mixture of fear and dread came over her as she pushed herself into the wall.

There wasn’t much space, and splinters and rough pieces of wood pierced her skin and got caught on her clothing. She wedged herself farther in.  Hunter replaced the board.

Light scattered in from cracks along the wall.  Nora pressed an eye to one of them. She could see the entire space between her and the entrance door. Hunter stood facing the door with his back to her. His feet were wide in a predatory stance.

Anxious minutes passed. Only Nora’s ragged breaths broke the silence, and they sounded as loud as hammers to her ears.

Slowly, the door started to move. Hunter tensed.

It creaked all the way open, and a tall figure stepped into the entrance. Nora’s breath caught. It was the same man from the dream, the same one she saw at the school.

“Where’s your friend?” the man asked Hunter crudely. He spoke with a harsh accent.

If it were possible, Hunter tensed even more. The man took a step forward. He wore the same long coat from before, the same dark hat. He and Hunter were approximately the same height. Leisurely, he started to take off his coat. Hunter still hadn’t moved.

The man dropped his coat in a pile at his side, and Nora saw that he was much thicker than Hunter. Bigger, more developed.

Stronger.

“Don’t try to hide her. I can smell her stench from here. I know she is with you.”

“You will not have her.” Hunter’s voice held a steely edge.

The man laughed. “Oh? Is that so?  And you think you’re going to stop me?” He laughed again. “You have broken the ancient creed by bringing her into our world. You will answer for your crime.  As will she.”

“You will not have her,” Hunter repeated, his voice filled with a deathly calm.

The man waved dismissively and took a step toward Hunter. “You cannot stop me,” he said. “And I don’t intend to take only her. You’ll be coming along, as well.”

“No,” Hunter growled.

“Oh, yes, I will take you both.” The man stood only a pace away from Hunter, now. “You cannot imagine what they will do to you.

You will be bound in chains, locked away to never again see the dark of night or feel the cool rays of the moon. You will grow weak and feeble, forever barred from taking blood. You will never feed again.

“Your body will go first. Your muscles will wither to nothingness.  Your bones will crumble. You will become a shadow of what you once were. A shadow of what you could have been.
“But they will keep your mind sharp.

Make no mistake, you will know you are suffering. An antidote will be administered, and it will stave off the madness that accompanies your deprivation. You will languish in misery, forever conscious of your mistake. That will be your sentence.  To suffer, until the end of time.”

The man took one last step, until he was nose-to-nose with Hunter. And he spoke just loudly enough for Nora to hear.  “But that pales in comparison to what they will do to her.”

Hunter snarled.

“Yes, her. Your precious human.” He spat the word. Then he raised his voice. “I know you are here, little one. Listen well to what I have to say.”

He returned his attention to Hunter. “She will suffer for your sin. A human mind and body is much weaker than that of our kind, and for that reason…she will be converted. And sentenced to suffer eternally alongside you.

“You know of the savage bloodlust that overtakes a new member of our race, do you not? Oh, but I think you do. You were once one of them, were you not? You were born a human.” Again, he spat the word. “A despicable thing. A despicable creature to risk so much for, wouldn’t you say?”

Hunter didn’t say a word, and the man continued. “I will give you one chance. One chance now, to repent. Give her up freely, and the punishment for your treason will be less severe. You will be bound for one century, before your freedom is returned.”

He put a hand on Hunter’s shoulder. “You know you cannot win. Is she worth an eternity in hell?”

Nora caught a furtive movement at the door. The other hunter. “No!” she screamed. It was a trap.

On Nora’s cry, both newcomers looked in her direction. Hunter curled back from the man’s hand and smashed an elbow into his face. The thick man stumbled back.

Then he laughed cruelly and flung himself at Hunter.


Buy copies of her books here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


About Sophia:

I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Actually, that's a bit of a lie.

I've been writing since the third grade, when a wonderful teacher asked everyone in class to write a fairy tale, and ended up picking mine as his favorite.

He didn't tell the other kids, of course - but confided it in my parents.

He said I have a natural knack for writing (his exact words! and I remember them to this day), and should never stop. So, I've kept going…

Where you can find her:
Goodreads
Blog


And now - time for an epic giveaway! Best of all, it's open internationally.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 13, 2013

Author guest post: Why science fiction isn’t just a guy thing by Jennifer Ridyard

Today I’ve got a kick-ass post from debut YA author Jennifer Ridyard.

Now Jennifer, who has co-written the novel Conquest with partner John Connolly - best-selling author of The Book of Lost Things and even more known for his phenomenal crime thrillers - chats about a topic that’s quite close to my heart today – that of science fiction.

When I first received her post, I was decidedly amused because I could relate so well to it. 

Back when I first heard the term science fiction – my immediate thought was, alien thingies, extra appendages and lots and lots of green gunk and slimy goo. My next immediate thought was, “ew”.

Yes, yes. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait until you all pick yourselves up from the floor, shall I?

I was about 12 years old then.

As you can tell, my view of the genre used to be incredibly skewed and limited. But then, along came books like The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, Divergent and Wither. 

Without going into too much explanation here, because Jennifer does cover a bit of this, I didn’t consider then, that within the genre (like many other genres), there are so many sub-branches that were waiting to be explored.

I’ve always thought this sci-fi was something purely technical. Not only that, but for most of my life, I was taught that sci-fi books are boy books and that girls should just stick to all the fluffy reads that were *especially written for them.*

Thankfully I know better now (regarding genre sub cats)  - and the things I used to consider gross? Well, it pretty much rocks my book world.

But, enough waffling from my side.  Before we get into the post, here’s some info about the book.

Oh and if you’re based in SA, you’ll be happy to know that both Jennifer and John will be here in January. I’ll post more details about dates in the forthcoming weeks. 

About Conquest
The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race. Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders.

The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who are best equipped to battle the Illyri.

Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach sixteen years of age.

Her father rules the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.

But all is not as it seems. The Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood.

When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.

Now the hunter has become the hunted, the predator becomes prey.

And as Syl is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun...

Click here to add it to your TBR pile on Goodreads.

NB: Stay tuned for a giveaway coming up on my blog this coming Tuesday.

On to Jennifer’s post: 

Why sci-fi isn’t just a guy thing

So you think you don’t like science fiction?

It’s for weirdoes.

It’s for boys.

It’s boring.

It’s got bad hairstyles, worse make-up and too much Lycra.

Frankly, you might be right. Yes, there are wastelands of that stuff out there on both page and screen, with exploding spaceships and imploding planets and stupid ray guns – not to mention the occasional three-boobed female with bad hair, all trussed up in Lycra.

The only attention any of that deserves is a raised eyebrow.

So may I suggest you instead stick to the sort of books that you love: books about gorgeous otherworldly boys, about fantasy creatures, about great acts of bravery, crazy challenges, parallel universes, wild ideas, riveting plots, paranormal abilities, love, death, and, best of all, strong, inspirational women (with the requisite two boobs, obviously)?

Books that sound rather a lot like science fiction actually…

The problem is no one seems able to really define science fiction.

In theory, it is science in story form, or at least the possibilities offered by science written as fiction.

But that doesn’t mean it’s set in the future.

Even the rather wonderful Margaret Attwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, made the mistake of declaring her book was most certainly NOT science fiction when it was published, because science fiction “has monsters and spaceships” and her book didn’t.

But she did her research and later went on to proudly own the term, declaring that science fiction explores “the nature and limits of what it means to be human in graphic ways, by pushing the envelope as far as it will go,” in an article for The Guardian.

And what makes science fiction particularly thrilling is, as Margaret says: “Increasingly, if we can imagine it, we’ll be able to do it.”

Yup, we really can boldly go where no one has gone before…

If you want even more girl-power then you’ll be delighted to know that the classic book Frankenstein – published in 1818, and widely acknowledged as the first true work of science fiction – was written by a WOMAN, Mary Shelley, when she was just 18.

But it has no aliens, no ray guns, no spaceships, and no boobs. The thing is, science fiction simply doesn’t have to.

Nor does it need to happen on a different planet. You loved The Hunger Games trilogy, right? That’s most definitely science fiction, set on an alternate, futuristic version of our own world.

I guess sometimes they just call the science fiction that girls love “Fantasy”, because girls tend to shy away from the tacky sci-fi label (all that Lycra makes us sweat).

Charlie Higson, author of the Young Bond books, has also written a gripping science fiction serial, known as The Enemy Series, which is torch-under-the-blankets reading, especially if you want to escape that girl-gets-jock schlock!

So science fiction can be set in a reimagined past, in a different version of today, on an alternate version of earth, in a parallel universe or even (as is the case with the film Men in Black II) in a baggage locker at Grand Central terminal in New York.

There’s historical sci-fi, dystopian sci-fi, superhuman sci-fi, and even fabulous-sounding branches like cyberpunk and, lately, the almost-painfully hip steampunk movement. Basically, science fiction just has to ask: “What if…?”

After that, anything goes – including, unfortunately, the occasional tri-boobed floozy.

And yes, I didn’t know I liked science fiction when I first discovered it. I was still in junior school in 1983 and there was much chatter about the next year because long-dead novelist George Orwell had written a futuristic book way back in the forties, and called it Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Of course I got my mitts on a copy and it was… dark, odd, disturbing, and I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I was glad I read it.

I spent hours mulling over its idea of a government controlled by Big Brother, where everyone is under constant camera surveillance (for their own good, naturally) and where the Ministry of Peace deals with war.

As I read it I felt my mind being prised open, expanding, and suddenly the future seemed ripe with possibilities and alternatives – not all of them happy ones, it must be said, but all of them utterly fascinating.

My next foray into science fiction was when an English teacher handed me The Chrysalids, a book by John Wyndham published in 1955, but still it felt so fresh.

It too was set on earth, but after a nuclear war, where hunted teenagers were forced to hide their supernatural powers. Now I was hooked: clearly there was a world of books to be discovered, and worlds beyond those too.

And then, in 2001, a certain JK Rowlings’ little book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won the prestigious Hugo Award, which is presented every year by the World Science Fiction Convention. So is the world’s favourite series actually sci-fi too?

Well, it may be stretching it a little because there’s not a lot of actual science in the fantastical Harry Potter series – even with all of Hermione’s best efforts, even with Severus Snape’s endless potions classes – but still…

Perhaps Harry won because science fiction has a magic all its own. And if you don’t believe me, then go pick that fight with Katniss Everdeen. I dare you.

About Jennifer and John
Jennifer Ridyard was born in England and grew up in Johannesburg, where she worked as a journalist for many years.

Conquest is her first novel.

John Connolly is the bestselling author of eighteen books, including the Charlie Parker series and The Book of Lost Things , and an editor of the prizewinning non-fiction anthology Books to Die For.

Conquest is his twentieth published book.  John and Jennifer live in Dublin.

Follow John and Jennifer on Twitter.

On a final note - I'll be reading this shortly and should have a review up before the end of January.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book talk: Why I read Young Adult fiction

I don’t often do this, but in today’s post, I’m featuring a post that I’ve previously featured on the blog.

I’m doing this because, as I was browsing through my files, I realised that today I’m feeling the emotions that I describe in the post below - and that the only way to make this better is to remind myself once again why I read YA and why I love book blogging.

Not only that.

The other reason I’ve written this post, is for those who have gone through something similar and for those who often feel judged because of your love for YA fiction.  I’ve edited here and there (edits in bold), but essentially, everything below still very much applies to my current situation.

I hope that, if you’re reading this, you’ll find something you can, in some way or another, relate to.

On to the post:

Why Young Adult fiction has saved (and still saves) my life time after time, after time.

Today I'm going to be talking about a subject that most bloggers have been defending over the last couple of months (and one that we’re still defending to this day): Young Adult fiction.

My post though, or my story if you will, is probably not a unique one, but the feelings experienced are certainly real enough - so I hope you bear with me as I try to find the words to express just what it is that I'm feeling and just how it ties in with my post about YA literature.

I haven’t been blogging much lately. My blogging pattern has, in the past few months, become decidedly irregular - with me posting anywhere between 1 - 5 posts per month, whereas in the past, I easily use to manage at least 15 posts per month.

The reason for this slowdown is quite simple really. I'm suffering from depression.

Now for those of you who are in the same boat, or know someone that is, you'll know that depression is about more than just feeling sad.

It's more than just crying out of the blue for no apparent reason and it's about more than just lying in foetal position whole day, struggling to muster the will to get up. It's a label that is so universal, yet each one experiences it very differently.

My experience?

So far, it's mostly been hell in a black pit for me. It's hell because I feel like I've lost my voice (my blogging voice included), it's agony because when I cry, I can't get the words that need to be said out of my system, and it's pure emotional torture because, on the days that I'm not crying, I'm filled with a seeping black void of numbness that renders me devoid of any feeling (the last one is kind of what I’m feeling today).

And because I feel so voiceless and devoid of joy, I often simply resort to going into automaton mode; going through the daily motions of everyday life and trying to keep it together, while inside, it feels like my soul is being ripped and shredded to parts.

Want to know what's worse? It's not necessarily those very, very bad days that makes everything feel so impossibly out of reach.

It's on the good days, when I have something akin to the feeling of hope,  that I convince myself I'm happy and feeling completely normal. And when I convince myself that nothing's wrong, well, my next crash is always worse than the previous one.

And then... then I'm back to where I started. Trapped in a never-ending cycle of self-loathing, hurt, self-pity and morbidity.

I have all these good intentions, but I just can't seem to follow through. I want to review, but can't bring myself to think beyond what I'm stretching myself to think in this bad space I'm in.

And I want to update, read and visit other blogs, but I don't seem to have all the energy for that lately.

In short, I can't bring myself to do anything beyond sleeping, getting up, going to work and coming home to curl up and read (the one thing that's kept me from completely going over the edge) and sleep.

But, believe it or not, my story is not one that is completely hopeless, because, besides getting professional help (I'm on anti-depressants and seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist), this is where YA fiction comes in.

Now as most of you know, over the past couple of months, there's been a plethora of raging debates surrounding teen fiction.

It seems that according to the "experts" (and as a young, online South African journalist, I use that word very loosely), fiction targeted for the youth is either too dark too depraved, too sexual or is guilty of romanticising domestic violence.

Any dark and negative connotation you can think of, it's probably been used to label and describe Young Adult fiction.

And for me, as a journalist who is an ardent supporter of YA fiction, it saddens me that people are so quick to criticise what they don't really understand.

I know I'm going to me making myself guilty of assumption, but I often get the feeling that the people who criticise this genre, have probably not read all that many teen reads. 

You know why? Because if they had, they wouldn't even begin to question the value that it has brought to so many young teens.

I may not be a teen, but without YA, I would have surely resorted to harming myself. Yes, I was suicidal for a long time, and yes, to many it seems impossible that a teen read has the power to save a life, but in truth, that's what it did for me.

For me, I've always seen the voices in YA novels as being incredibly brave. Many of them have given me the opportunity to become the girl I've always wanted to be in my teen years. Strong, brave and courageous.

To be those things, you'd certainly have to go through your share of hell to build up that sort of character right?  And what many of these characters go through, are more than an echo of what's going on outside in the real world.

It's real and it's happening outside in the lives of teens and young adults alike. Which is why I can't understand all the condemnation around it. If the teens are experiencing this and you have people criticising this genre so severely, then how can you even hope to help the teen who so desperately needs saving?

Why do you think they're resorting to these wonderful reads?

These reads that offer them voices.

These reads that (and this applies to me as well) allow them to feel.

And mostly, these reads that offer them hope and understanding in a world dominated by people who constantly criticise them and don't see that beyond many young boys and girls' reckless behaviour, there's a desperate plea for help.

On days when I couldn't even bring myself to speak, it was this genre that grounded me. It was this genre that brought out a tentative smile and it was this genre, that against all odds, brought out the bubble of laughter, that I had thought was long forgotten.

A dear blog friend of mine has said often said that people don't choose books, but that books have a way of finding and choosing you.



In my darkest times, the books that have always found me, is the Young Adult fiction genre.


Before you pass judgement on books that take on tough subjects like drugs, teen pregnancy, suicide, abuse and the big forbidden topic of all, teen sex (criticising the nature of the books won't change the fact that these things are happening), consider for a moment how many young girls and boys have started reading again.

It's not just for the romance, although there's plenty of that deliciousness to be found. It's for the voices that offer hope and a sense of belonging; it's for the voices that don't offer judgement, and it's for the voices that above all else, relate to them and are an echo of their own souls.

There've been many of these reads that have saved my life and in the next few weeks, I'll share a few of them with you. For now, I thought I'd share my story with you in the hopes that someone finds hope in this in some way.

Because that #YAsaves hash tag on Twitter?  It's not just a hash tag.

I can testify to this.

And you know what? After this post, I think I'm finally ready to start getting back into gear with my blogging again. You can expect lots of reviews and bookish ramblings a little more often now. 

And hopefully, as I get back on track again, that void of hopelessness and helplessness will disappear altogether.

For now, I'm going to take it one step at a time and I'm going to keep reading my YA books. As Alan Rickman says:


xoxo

Tammy

P.S. I know this post was long, rambly and not perfectly written, but to be quite honest, perfection wasn't what I was aiming for.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book review: The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

Fantasy and magic realism meet myth, religious diversity and an explosion of cultural metropolis in this delightful and beautifully rendered earth-meets-fire tale.

Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section. 
 
The Golem and the Djinni (Blue Door)

Book comparisons are rather dangerous.

And yet, as a bibliophile, I often find myself unable to resist the allure of finding a new book that’s been touted as being along the same vein as another read; especially if that book just so happens to be one of my favourites.

In this case, the book that The Golem and the Djinni was (and is) being compared to, is The Night Circus.

Now, if you are a fan of fantasy and magic realism and haven’t read The Night Circus before, I would highly recommend that you do.

It’s one of the most magnificent novels I’ve read to date, and one I can’t wait to see adapted to film (despite my ambivalence towards book-to-movie adaptations in general).

The fantastical imagery brought to life under Erin Morgenstern’s hands, the beautiful and intriguing concept of life on the road and in a travelling circus, and at its heart, the two magicians whose magnificent and magical creations form the heart and soul of their forbidden love story - it’s truly a feast for the senses.

See, with a comparison to a book like that, you can hardly blame me for taking a chance on The Golem and the Djinni, can you?

I’m ridiculously glad that I did though, because Helene Wecker’s debut novel is an absolute gem of a read; one that sucks you in like a sandstorm in the desert.

Bear in mind that though this book is compared to Morgenstern’s Night Circus, The Golem and the Djinni, while similar in genre style, does not try to be its carbon copy.

While you certainly have to suspend your disbelief, as most magic realism novels compel you to (this is what I love most about these kind of novels), The Golem and the Djinni has a more languid, subtle and earthy tone to it than the overt and fantastical imagery featured in The Night Circus.

With its rich blend of Syrian mythology and incorporation of ancient and dark Kabbalistic magic; juxtaposed with a bustling and emerging 1890s concrete jungle New York, The Golem and the Djinni has both an energetic, cosmopolitan vibe and an Arabian Nights feel to it.

The contrast is incredibly interesting, and combined with two strongly developed mythic creatures from two different time spans, is one that works phenomenally well.

Our story begins on the shores of Poland when a young man, who desires a wife, approaches a Rabbi who dabbles in the ancient art of dark and mystical Kabbalistic magic and requests that he models and constructs a wife for him.

What results in this endeavour is a being of clay brought to life – Chava, the golem.

Unfortunately for him, he doesn't get the chance to acquaint himself with his new wife as he succumbs to illness while aboard the ship.

With no husband and master to care for, Chava is left unmoored, with no anchor to guide her and faces an unknown future in a world that is completely foreign to her.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Manhattan, a tinsmith, upon fixing a copper flask, discovers that djinni’s are real and that this one, whom we quickly come to know as Ahmed, although freed from the flask, is trapped in his human form.

Inevitably the two beings, one borne of clay and the other borne of fire, cross paths one night, and against all odds, a tentative friendship begins.

However, natures are hard to hide, and one evening's festivities soon leads to an inevitable separation.

Trying to move on, but unable to forget, both force themselves to go about their daily tasks, hoping against hope to find a way to forget in the humdrum of everyday life.

Only when a dark force at hand threatens their very livelihood, are Chava and Ahmed thrown together once again and are forced to make a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

The Golem and the Djinni is one of my favourite reads of 2013.

It's lush in its intensity, magnetic in its descriptions of Jewish and Syrian myth and makes for an utterly compelling read that burns with a slow force; building up to a crescendo that makes this book impossible to put down.

If you're a fan of fast-paced reads which feature action sequences that begin from the get-go, you'll probably find yourself a little frustrated with this read.

I won't lie; the book does take a while to build-up to certain events - mainly the moment when Ahmed and Chava meet for the first time - but I believe that Wecker's purpose here was to provide us with a back-story, peppered with interesting mythological snippets that eventually coalesce to form that "Oh now I understand" moment.

The way Ahmed's origins and history are unravelled in particular, is one of my favourite aspects of my book.

Helene's description of Bedouin culture, combined with djinni lore will have you begging for more info about life in the desert, and have you wishing that you had your own palace in the heart of a harsh and often unyielding environment.

Never thought I'd say that, but that's definitely a testimony as to just how much I enjoyed this read.

Ahmed and Chava are two incredibly fascinating characters. The two couldn't be more different; Ahmed insolent, arrogant and far too impulsive and attractive for his own good, while Chava is demure, cautious and serious in comparison.

The reason for her seriousness we soon discover is that as a golem, she has to constantly fight the urge against the desires, wishes and wants of other people.

Created originally for this purpose (which would have been included in her wifely duties), you can't help but empathise with her when she forces herself to fight against her very nature.

It's this that makes her the perfect balance to Ahmed's impetuousness. She reigns him in and teaches him to think beyond the now, while he in turn, teaches her to give in to a bit of impulse every now and then.

Their budding romantic relationship if one can go as far as to call it that, is incredibly subtle and one that takes a backseat to the events that occur at the forefront.

The two are connected in more ways than one and the dark magic that hovers around them, is one that adds an immensely spellbinding aspect to their lives.

The supporting characters in this novel also add a colourful and culturally diverse flavour to the novel, while the antagonist and his deviousness (I wish I could add more, but that would only spoil things for you) will have you mentally shouting at the characters to get as far away from him as possible.

If you're a fan of Aladdin (I'm singing Arabian Nights in my head as I'm typing this), earthy desert settings and not-often-enough explored mythology, then The Golem and the Djinni is a book that you need to add to your to-read list.

It's simply mesmerising.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book talk (Book worlds we’d love to visit) and HOSAS giveaway winners

So a huge, huge thank you to everyone who entered the House of Sand and Secrets Giveaway.  I must say I wasn’t expecting the lovely responses to the giveaway, but I really enjoyed reading every single one of them.

With the launch of the book today (Happy Book Birthday Cat), what better way than to celebrate by announcing the winners of the giveaway today?

Also, because there can only be two winners, I thought I’d give everyone a shout out by sharing everyone’s responses in this post (Ha, and no, I’m definitely not surprised that Hogwarts made it onto this list).

So, without further ado, here are your responses. Winner details follow below:

Alex:
The realm I'd love to visit would have to be the Discworld and Ankh Morpork especially. A tete-a-tete with the patrician, Rincewind and Sam Vimes would probably be the highlights of such a visit. be no difference.

Another Librarian:


I would like to visit Middle Earth specifically a fact-finding mission to Mordor to determine if the regime change was legal and justified (I would also really like to find out if Orcs were in fact irredeemably evil or if they just got a bad rep as we only read about the warriors of their culture)

Bookaliciouspam

I'd like to live in Inkheart for a day.

DKoren

I think I'd really love to go to Pern and ride a dragon.

Heather@ The Flyleaf Review


I would love to visit Laini Taylor's Eretz and check out all those chimera AND angels :)

Kara Seal

I'd love to spend a day at Hogwarts, though I don't think I'd ever want to come back to reality! Pelimburg would be cool too...I want to ride in a carriage pulled by unis and drink 'ink tea!

Anica

So because I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan I would love to go to the Discworld and have tea Granny Weatherwax.

Dave

I'd have to say that a visit to Matthew Swift's London would be awesome - Kate Griffin did such an amazing job in 'A Madness of Angels' and 'The Midnight Mayor' that I seriously want to go there and experience her brand of Urban Magic. :-)

Dirk

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in MallenIve, even if it's just for a day. Of course, you'd have to forgive me if I tend to buzz around the lesser parts of town, all the excitement tends to be there.

Mels_Anie

I would happily spend some time in Le Guin's Hain Universe.

Christiney

Haha mine is either Hogwarts (yes, I think this is a given for almost everyone) or the Graceling realm! I reread her books and I want to visit it soooo badly

Shari


I'd like to visit the world of Harry Potter...does everyone say that? lol :)

Monique

For me it's quite a tie between the wizarding world in Harry Potter, Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia, and Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings.

Helen

"It would have to be the alternative medieval world of T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Or perhaps Philip Pullman's version of Oxford in His Dark Materials."

And now, time for the giveaway winners:

Congratulations to: Dave and ChristineY who have each won yourselves an e-copy. You’ll be contacted shortly and will be given 48 hours to respond. Failure to do so, will result in new winners being drawn.

For those who haven’t won – don’t worry, I’ve got a new giveaway coming up soon. This time it will be for an gritty and edgy contemporary YA novel that explores a topic that you don’t often see explored in this genre.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cover reveal & giveaway: House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen

Today I have the awesome honour of revealing the cover of the book that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out it was a sequel to my favourite South African fantasy novel, When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen (who might I add, is one of the most awesome authors I’ve ever known – both online and in real life)

Most of you should have read WTSIRR by now, but just in case you haven’t you can check out my review of the book to find out what it’s all about.

Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR too!

And while you’re at it, you should definitely go out and grab yourself a copy, because in today’s cover reveal post, I, with special thanks to Cat and Brianna (the cover designer for House of Sand and Secrets) are also giving you the chance to win 1 of 2 e=book copies of HOSAS.

And I would highly recommend that you do read When the Sea is Rising Red first.

So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, are you ready to check out the cover of House of Sand and Secrets?

Check it out below. More information about the book and giveaway details will follow thereafter.


I don’t know about you, but I think it’s one of the most striking covers I’ve seen this year. I love the contrasting colours, the claw … and well, pretty much everything about it really.

Also, how refreshing is it from the standard pretty, thin (and mostly white) girl we so often see on covers?

About House of Sand and Secrets

"Cat Hellisen's fantasy novel House of Sand and Secrets follows the path of Felicita Pelimberg, the hero of When the Sea is Rising Red (FSG), when she discovers that sometimes, playing to lose is the only way to survive the game of Houses.

Trapped in a hasty marriage to lower-caste Jannik and trying to make the best of their exile, Felicita is immersed in the machinations of the powerful ruling families. MallenIve is worlds apart from Felicita’s native Pelimburg, and her family name and standing will not help her here.

Haunted by her past and those who died because of her, she attempts to regain her status as the scion of a once-great House, while confronting her true feelings for her distant husband.

If MallenIve’s leaders have their way, Jannik will soon have no more rights than an animal, and a union that once seemed to offer a solution to Felicita’s problems is now a dangerous liability.

Felicita’s feelings are conflicted and it is all too easy to fall into the prejudiced mindset of the higher castes … until faceless corpses begin turning up on the rubbish tips, and Felicita might be the only hope Jannik and his people have."

Add it to your TBR pile
. 

More about Cat
Cat Hellisen is an author of fantasy for adults and young adults. Born in 1977 in Cape Town, South Africa, she has also lived in Johannesburg, Knysna, and Nottingham.

She originally studied graphic design at Technikon Witwatersrand, before realising that she had no interest at all in the world of advertising.

She began writing seriously at age twenty-five but it was not until 2010 that she sold her first full-length novel, When the Sea is Rising Red.

Her children’s book, Beastkeeper, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is due out 2014
.
You can also find her on:
Twitter
Facebook
Website
Goodreads

And now – giveaway time!
To celebrate the forthcoming release (the book will be available from Wednesday, 23 October), you can win 1 of 2 e-book copies of HOSAS. To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which book world you’d like to visit for day, along with a means to contact you.

Giveaway is open internationally and ends on Wednesday, 23 October.

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed

Monday, October 14, 2013

Author interview: Elena Perez

Today I’d like to welcome Elena Perez, author of the YA novel, The Art of Disappearing, to my blog today. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and compile a Q & A, so I’m super thrilled to have Elena stop by on my blog.

In this interview, I chat to Elena about issues such as identity in YA (Her book, The Art of Disappearing, is very much centred around this theme), ask for an introduction to some of the characters featured in her as well as sharing a sneak peek from the book.

But, before we kick off, here’s some more information about the book (How awesome is the cover by the way?). 


About The Art of Disappearing
Delia can see the future . . . but can she change it?

All Delia wants is to be popular. She has the perfect plan: join the cheerleading squad with her best friend, Ava, and rule the school from the coolest table in the cafeteria.

But everything changes the day she watches a boy die—before it actually happens.

After dreaming about a classmate’s demise, she’s shocked when she witnesses his last breath—just like she dreamt it.

Ava insists Delia stop acting so strange, but Delia worries her abilities are beyond her control.

Torn between who she is and who she wants to be, Delia wishes she could simply disappear.
 
She doesn’t get her wish, but when someone close to her vanishes, Delia must use her gift to solve the mystery, before it’s too late.

Add The Art of Disappearing to your Goodreads TBR pile.


Q & A with Elena
Q: The Art of Disappearing is about a young girl who finds herself struggling to find her identity.

What do you think it is about this theme that makes it so relatable amongst readers, particularly the YA audience?

 
Well, it’s something we all go through in varying degrees. And it becomes excruciatingly important during those years when we first begin to really manage our own time. Initially our parents are shuffling us from here to there, we’re taking the bus to school and back, it’s all kind of programmed for us.

But then, suddenly, we’re old enough to start choosing where we go, who we spend our time with.

We’re making all of these decisions that might seem small, but they ultimately add up to votes for who we’re choosing to be. That’s why it can be such a nightmare to chose between one activity or another, one friend or another. It really does have huge repercussions.

Q: I’m always interested in hearing about how the character and the character’s voice came to the author. Can you tell us a little bit about the moment Delia first introduced herself to you?

The minute Delia came to me, I knew she was a girl on the cusp, on the edge of being edgy. It was like there was potential within her to be something more than she needed, but the spark hadn’t arrived yet.

I knew that spark would occur the moment the novel began and that the rest of the novel would involve her coping with that disruption, navigating a new sense of self.

Q:  It goes without saying that characters who battle with finding themselves often go through a tremendous amount of discomfort during their transition.

Could you perhaps give us a little insight into some of Delia’s most difficult moments?

The story has its fair share of tragic and chilling moments for Delia, but those that were ultimately the most difficult were rooted in betrayal.

I think we all begin to understand at an early age, unfortunately, that you can’t get through life pain-free. But when the source of that pain is someone you love and trust… that’s a much deeper level of hurt.

That’s the kind of experience Delia has with her best friend Ava. Their lives have suddenly diverged and neither of them know how to handle it so it gets really messy. And then it happens again later in the story, on a much bigger scale.

Both really uncomfortable moments for Delia, but they are also – as uncomfortable moments tend to be - enlightening.

Q: I believe that supporting characters are just as important to the story as the main protagonists are.

What do you think makes a great sidekick and can you introduce us to some of the other characters we’ll meet in The Art of Disappearing?


The best people that we align ourselves with offer trust, so we can feel comfortable enough to share who we really are.

But they also challenge us, using their unique point of view and the rare perspective they get from being so close in order to support us as we become who we really want to be.

In the beginning of The Art of Disappearing, Delia doesn’t quite understand who she is, or who she wants to be. And when she begins to figure it out, she discovers that she can’t trust her friends like she thought she could.

She’s forced to find it elsewhere, make other connections.

That’s where Zach comes in, Delia’s cousin. He grew up on the west coast with Delia’s aunt – a frazzled version of Delia’s mom – and is far more independent than Delia. When he comes to visit, they get to bond over their crazy family, but he also brings a new perspective with him that instantly expands Delia’s world.

In a lot of ways he provides Delia with the accessories for her new identity – music, fashion, attitude.

Delia also connects with another classmate named Regina – however unwilling – after she is banished from her core circle of friends. It’s not a perfect match; Delia’s hardly comfortable with Regina’s sarcasm and frank bitterness.

But what’s interesting about Regina is that she’s direct in a way that Ava (Delia’s best friend) hasn’t been. She doesn’t leave Delia guessing about her feelings and that’s something Delia can appreciate at a time when everything else is so unclear.

Q: Love triangles in contemporary YA: yay or nay?

There’s no cure for love triangles in real life, so I don’t imagine they’ll stop showing up in YA any time soon.

The challenge is bringing a new approach to the table. And there are a ton of great writers writing now, so hopefully something will bubble up soon that scratches the itch for love triangles in a way that surprises us all.

Q: What themes would you like to see more explored in the YA genre?


After such a long stretch of magic, vampires and other paranormal, there’s a big push for realistic fiction right now. I’m excited about that because it opens the door to explore our current world – which is kind of crazy and weird in its own right. 

I’d like to see something that meaningfully and emotionally explores the rapid-fire change around us. I don’t mean a book that does a good job of including texting or Facebook in the narrative. Something further out there. If I knew what it was, I’d be working on it. ;)

Q: What song do you think describes The Art of Disappearing best? (Please feel free to elaborate on the music that were inspiring to you during your writing process)

I absolutely count on music as a source of inspiration for my writing. It’s huge for me. And the same is true for Delia. In The Art of Disappearing, Delia discovers a band that totally inspires her.

It’s a fictional band, The Angrists, but their song served as a source of inspiration for me as I wrote.

Another thing that might not be really evident is that The Art of Disappearing plays out in the 90’s.

I didn’t write it as a period piece, but I really wanted to explore the way music used to be discovered – you’d see an obscure t-shirt of a band and could go days or weeks or months before you actually heard the band. Agh!

So different than now.  So I listened to The Cure’s Disintegration a lot while writing this. It was released in ’89 and, for me, the songs on this album are like a time machine right to the early 90’s.

Q: What’s the best part of being a writer and what’s the hardest part?

The best part is the experience of connecting with readers. After I spent so much time and thought getting to know Delia Dark and her world, the ability to share it with others is nothing less than exhilarating.

I love hearing from readers on GoodReads, or Twitter or Facebook, wherever.

The hardest part? Bad writing days for sure. At best, writing is a magical experience wherein the words seem to flow so easily that I wonder if my hands are just outputting work my brain has already done long ago. It can be totally surreal and mind-blowing.

Other times, I get stuck and it’s about as awesome as chewing on glass. Ouch. But I love doing it, so I keep chewing through the disappointment until it starts to flow again.  I just keep going. 

Q: Finally, could you share a snippet of your favourite scene from The Art of Disappearing?


Tough pick! I’m going for one that won’t include any spoilers. This is a scene where Delia and Zach are walking home together and Delia, currently obsessing about her seemingly psychic powers and the responsibility that comes with them, is trying to get some input from Zach.

Except he’s all-science, all-the-time. Here goes:

We walked a bit before I finally asked, “What’s so cool about physics?”

Zach thought for a minute. “The certainty. There are laws of physics? Every time it’s, ‘If you do that, then this happens.’ ‘If you do this, then—’”
 

“That happens,” I answered automatically.

“Exactly. I like knowing how things are supposed to turn out.”

“Except they don’t always turn out the way they are supposed to.”

“In physics they do.”

“But not in life they don’t.” I could have given him a bunch of examples, all starting from that day at cheerleading tryouts, but instead I asked, “Do you think it’s possible to stop things from happening?”

“What things?”

I thought for a second. “Like, if you know something’s going to happen, do you think it’s possible to change it so that something else happens?”

“Depends. I’m not going to stop the earth from rotating but if I—” Zach slammed into me hard. I had to hop a step to keep from totally losing my balance.

“Hey!”

“If I push you, you move eeeasy.”

“You pushed hard.”

“It was a scientific experiment, D. One object asserting force on another, changing its path. You can’t get mad at me for that.”


A huge, huge thanks Elena for taking the time out to stop by on my blog and to answer my questions.
 

About Elena:
Elena Perez was born and raised in New Jersey; Elena discovered a love for writing early on.
She majored in English as an undergrad and was then awarded a graduate fellowship in Creative Writing at Temple University.

She lived in Philadelphia while she completed her M.A. and taught writing courses—an experience that she still cherishes—until she decided to make the long-anticipated leap to New York City.

Today Elena lives on NYC’s Lower East Side and is currently working on her next novel. Follow her on twitter @elenabooks or visit her website: www.elenaperezbooks.com.

You can also check her out on Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book review: Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs

A girl trying to escape a cursed world, an enticing and dream-hopping Goblin King who'd do anything to keep her in his world and a dark power threatening to undo them all.

Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs (Entangled Teen)

 

When I first came across Greta and the Goblin King, I remember being immediately intrigued by the title.

While I was deciding on whether or not to add this to my books-to-read pile, I came across a review describing it, and I quote, as "Hansel and Gretel meets Alice in Wonderland meets Labyrinth" (I’d add Peter Pan to this description as well).

Now being a fan of fairy tales - and having loved David Bowie's role as Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth - my interest in this book was pretty much guaranteed. 

Besides, with the promise of supernatural characters that, as much as I love them, aren't vampires, angels or werewolves, I was interested to see what the world described in the synopsis would be like.

Thankfully, Greta and the Goblin King more than proves that it has something different to offer. 

With a brave, bold and fiercely intelligent heroine trying to navigate her way through a deadly, beautiful and treacherous world, it's hard not to become absorbed and invested in this tale that speaks of magic, cursed lands and fantastical creatures.

After trying to save her brother from a witch, Greta is thrown through a fire portal and lands up Mylena, a harsh and unwelcoming world that is a far cry from home. 

The only human in a world filled with dangerous fairies, goblins and a whole host of other vicious and hybrid creatures, Greta is forced to disguise her humanity by keeping her ears covered at all times.

With no other option left, and as a means to survive in the world she's trapped in, Greta becomes a bounty hunter .

Unfortunately for her, Greta's plan to escape fails to go unnoticed, nor is she the only one who wants access to the world outside of Mylena.

With an eclipse on its way, an event which transforms even the tamest of creatures into rabid and bloodthirsty monsters, Greta and the lost boys (the only other humans – all ranging between the ages 12 and 18 - she manages to encounter) will have to find a way to get back to the world they belong, without becoming prey to the ravenous creatures out there.

The first book in a trilogy, Greta and the Goblin has proven to be quite an intriguing and very promising read.

As a huge fan of fairy tales, I always appreciate it when an author takes elements of an old tale and puts a new spin on it – and Chloe Jacobs has not only managed to inventively incorporate this into a beautiful, harsh and forbidding world, but she’s done so in a manner that only adds to the element of uniqueness that can be found in the novel.

Greta, the heroine of the story, absolutely steals the show. As the only human in a frosty world that considers her kind an enemy, Greta’s independence, resourcefulness and ability to fight her way out of some of the most impossible situations, is nothing short of remarkable.

Stubborn to a fault, she displays a don’t-need-a-boy-to-rescue-me attitude, that although sometimes gets her into trouble, is decidedly refreshing. Not only that, but she’s spunky and has quite a mouth on her – showing an effortless amount of bravery that is borderline reckless.

I really couldn’t help but find myself cheering her on.

In the midst of trying to navigate her way through the hostile and dangerous world of Mylena, Greta finds herself having to deal with the attention of Isaac, the young Goblin King; interactions which prove to be quite complicated.

Between mistrust and attraction, the simmering tension between the two certainly add a dynamic that will have the reader begging for more.

I have to admit though, that while Isaac is certainly likeable in his own way, I think it’s safe to say that Jareth is in no danger of being dethroned as the Goblin King of my heart.

I think the problem here for me is, that we don’t see enough of Isaac in this book to actually be able to form more than just a periphery opinion about him; something which I hope will eventually change. 


I also adored the settings of this book. Chloe has managed to not only portray a world that is snow-cold and hostile, but in all of the world’s icy exterior, she’s by the same token, created a world that glitters and shimmers in the moonlight, and one that’s inhabited by enchanting (if decidedly deadly) creatures.

It’s a world of both nightmares and dreams – and is just the kind of thing that lovers of darker fairy tales will enjoy.  And definitely makes this book worth the read.

I can’t wait to read the sequel.