Friday, June 28, 2013

Cover reveal & Excerpt: Sharp Edges by S.A Partridge

Eep.

I’m so excited about today’s post, because not only will I be doing a cover reveal of a book I’m really, really looking forward to, but I’ll also be providing you with an excerpt from this up and coming gritty and edgy YA novel.

In the past, I’ve often seen bloggers ask where the international YA authors are, so another huge part of why I’m so ridiculously happy about this blog post is because I’m spotlighting a book by an award-winning South African Young Adult author – one whom I’ve also had the privilege of meeting and attending a book festival with.

S.A Partridge, the S being short for Sally, is the phenomenal and Cape Town-based author who has written some incredible books – Dark Poppy ‘s Demise (a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media networks), Fuse (an edgy YA novel that deals with the theme of bullying and the consequences thereof) and The Goblet Club (a YA gothic novel all about murder, mystery and exploring the study of poisons).

I know – they all sound incredible, right?

Well in today’s post, I’m unveiling the cover for her new book, Sharp Edges – and it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I love how sharply it contrasts against the background and the swirling dress seems so contradictory – at once all pretty and light, but also enigmatic and unsettling – pretty much what I love in a cover and a story.

More about the book below.


About the book
For her seventeenth birthday, Demi Crowley invites her five closest friends to join her at a music festival for a party to end all parties. But what was supposed to be the night of their lives soon becomes a nightmare none of them will ever forget.

Sharp Edges is a topsy-turvy tale of love, loss and friendship that will stay with you long after the final page has been turned, and leave you questioning what you really know about your friends.

(And begs the question): Who killed Demi Crowley?


Find out 26 August 2013.

For a little preview of the book, check out the  excerpt below:

“Bonang!”

“I’m over here, hurry up.”

I wave from the front of the line and wait for the pop of recognition in my friend’s eyes. When she sees me, Ntombi and a girl I don’t recognise hurry over and join me in the queue.

Ntombi is wearing a colourful short dress that shows off her long legs. The blonde girl is wearing black jeans and a button-up shirt. How boring. They push themselves into the line and we deliberately keep our eyes in front of us to avoid the angry complaints coming from behind.

“Sorry I’m late. I had to pick up Ashley in Fourways,” said Ntombi, as she brushes one of her braids out of her face. I look at this “Ashley”.

Her hair is very white, although the dark roots are starting to show, and her face is pocked with holes from previous piercings as if she took all the metal jewellery out in one go. She doesn’t meet my gaze.

I turn to my best friend and give her a look that says “WTF”.

She shrugs. “Ashley is new to my grade. I thought I’d show her what the nightlife is like in Jozi. She’s from Cape Town.”

It’s clear that Ashley doesn’t like being spoken about. She starts chewing her hair nervously.

I sigh.

“Just act cool, okay? If the bouncer asks how old you are, say nineteen.”

The new girl nods, but her eyes are looking everywhere but at me.

Ntombi shrugs again and links her arm through mine. “Don’t worry about Ashley; she’s alright. You’re looking fabulous, by the way.”

I smile at the compliment. I had squeezed myself into the teeniest, sparkliest dress I own. I like looking good when I go out. Scratch that. I love looking better than everyone else.

The bouncer scrutinises us, but lets us into the club without hassle. He probably recognises me from the previous weekend.

As soon as we cross the threshold, I start to move. My hips start swaying and my arms stretch up to the sky.

I might not be the smartest girl in class – Ntombi has enough brains for both of us – and I’m useless at most sports, but when it comes to dancing, I’m in my element.

I sashay towards the dance floor, my fingers waving at all the familiar faces from recent parties. I spin on the spot, motioning for Ntombi to join me, but she isn’t looking at me. I watch as she and Ashley slip into a booth at the far end of the room.

My good mood crumples a little. I’m not used to Ntombi having other friends. I turn back to the dance floor and lose myself to the hip hop beats, stamping my feet and waving my arms, determined to have a good time.

I’m not going to let some girl with confidence problems ruin my night.

Click here to read the rest of the excerpt.

What Sally has to say about the cover:
The cover for Sharp Edges was designed by Cape Town designer Warren Talmarkes.

I wanted something beautiful and eerie, with a touch of darkness. Warren's interpretation is perfect. I couldn't be happier. 

More About Sally:

S.A Partridge is an award-winning author of teen fiction and one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans.

Sally is the author of young adult novels The Goblet Club, Fuse and Dark Poppy’s Demise and has twice won the M.E.R. Prize for Youth Ficiton as well as other distinctions.

Her latest novel, Sharp Edges, will be published 26 August 2013.

Where you can find Sally:
Web 
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book talk: I just can't bring myself to read that book

When it comes to books, I've never been one to shy away from dark themes, controversial subjects and taboo topics.

From literature about incest and polygamist cults to books about child kidnapping and stolen identities, there are not many topics that have stopped me in my tracks.

In fact, I'm actually planning to start reading A Game of Thrones soon (I broke my rule about reading the book before the series and am now in the midst of watching season 1), and from what I've seen and heard so far, blood, death, sex and incest are pretty much the order of the day.

The fact that I often delve into the darker side of fiction, in no way means that reading about such disturbing content brings me any form of pleasure.

I don't read these books because I want to hop, skip and jump for joy. Rather, I read them because I always find it fascinating to see how authors portray these dark subjects.

For me, it's all about the psychology behind the characters' inner thoughts and motives, their resilience and will to survive and most of all, to see whether or not a hopeful (if not happy) ending can be carved from the very darkest of situations. I suppose it's also a good reason why I'm such a huge fan of dystopian fiction.

But, having said that, I have to draw the line somewhere.  And sometimes, when I find myself saying “no” to a book, I'm often surprised by my reaction.

You see, some of them, on the surface, may not even seem half as bad as books I've already read, but yet they still trigger an instant "I can't read this" reaction.

I was browsing through some of my favourite book blogs, and stumbled across a very well-written review of a book that, in spite of (or maybe because of)  the interesting perspective on it, had me thinking "No way do I want to go there."

The book is called Thousand Words and it deals with a teen, who in a moment of weakness, sends a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend. After a horrible break-up, the picture is circulated, and you can pretty much guess what happens from there.

My lovely bookish friend, Wendy, the reviewer of this book, labels this as a "modern cautionary tale" and had some pretty thought-provoking comments on both the book and subject of teens distributing explicit photos of themselves and how it could get them (yes them) into trouble with the law.

My thing about this book is that not only does it hit a little close to home regarding the vulnerability of our young kids and teens out there, but the underlying themes of cyber bullying and abuse and the repercussions of "sexting", had me thinking of our own cases in South Africa and just how susceptible adolescents are to this sort of thing.

The other reason this has me playing the avoidance game with it, is because of the bullying aspect that usually go hand in hand with explicit texting.

Perhaps this is just speculation on my part, but I can't picture a scenario like this without the sender of the pic being the target of vicious slander, verbal abuse and name-calling.

I realise that reading about books that deal with this topic is empowering, and as I've mentioned, I often read these type of books because I want to see the victim finding a new strength from his/her past experiences.

But the truth is, I just can't read this (or Speak or Some Girls Are - these are two of my other no-go books) because I don't want to relive my own years of being bullied at school. I've moved past it, yes, but I'd rather not revisit it.

And I think, herein lies the answer. Some dark aspects in fiction are easier to read because they tend to be more far removed from our reality than others, especially when the book is set in an alternative universe or in a place where that which is being dealt with, occurs more commonly elsewhere instead of close to home.

Perhaps that makes me a coward, but I'd like to think that we all have those books that instinctively have us backing away in discomfort and that we just can't bring ourselves to read.

What's your "can't read" book? And what is it about that book that makes you shy away from it every time you see it on the shelves?

Disclaimer:
This originally appeared as a column on Women24, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The 5th Wave Giveaway winners & forthcoming on the blog

So, a huge thank you to everyone who has entered The 5th Wave giveaway on my blog. The book is truly one of the most phenomenal books I’ve read this year, so far. In fact, I’ve got an inkling that this may just end up being in my top 5 of 2013 – it’s just that good.

Without further ado, the winners of the giveaway are as follows:

South African Winners:

KJ from Words in Ink
Jess from skyscrapersandskylines.com
Monique from Paranormalsphere

International Winner

Sarah from Misspageturnerscityofbooks

Congratulations lovelies – you’ve each won a copy of The 5th Wave. Winners have been contacted and have 48 hours to respond. Failure to do so will result in another winner being chosen.

Then, because I know I’ve been a little scarce on the blog, I thought I’d just give an update on what I’ll be posting in the next two weeks or so.

Coming up shortly:

1. A guest post from a Suzanne van Rooyen, a young adult author from South Africa who’ll be sharing her thoughts on diversity in young adult fiction.

2. A column for my book talk feature. This one was inspired by Wendy from The Midnight Garden and was originally featured on the website where I work.

3. Another guest post from author Shawn Martin on Kick-butt heroines vs. Damsels in Distress.

4. And of course, a few book reviews (including one of a classic read – which I love doing every now and again).

That’s it from me for now – look out for more giveaways soon. :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book review: The 5th Wave

If books could be compared to works of art, then Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave would definitely be the Starry, Starry Night of Young Adult dystopian fiction. 

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 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Penguin Books)
For the last couple of weeks or so, Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave has been the subject of discussion amongst many of the book blogging community members I regularly chat to.

Words such as brilliant, phenomenal and gobsmackingly awesome were being freely tossed around, while others made mention of this novel definitely being a strong contender for the book of 2013.

Now, I’m no fan of the hype monster, and would probably have read this at a later stage once all the hoo-ha surrounding this book has simmered down, but hearing one book blogger’s opinion – she regularly recommends fabulous books to me – about this being her best book of the year so far; well, it definitely gave me pause.

With a certain amount of trepidation (I always feel this way about books that fall prey to mass marketing), I decided to jump on board and see what all the fuss is about.

I’m very glad I did, because The 5th Wave is undoubtedly the best dystopian fiction novel I’ve read since both Divergent and The Hunger Games.

In fact, I’m going to just go all out and say this:  The Hunger Games and Divergent are two of my favourite dystopic novels, but even these two books pale in comparison to the undeniable brilliance of this novel.

At first glance, Yancey’s The 5th Wave may seem like your standard sci-fi novel about alien invasion.

It’s not.

Now, I’m quite aware that books about aliens invading and destroying earth have a certain clich├ęd ring to it, and that it’s generally a subject that would probably only appeal to a niche group of readers.

 In fact, though I am a huge fan of YA sci-fi and dystopic fiction, when I first picked this up, even I wasn’t quite sure whether this book would leave me with the same feelings of excitement that seems to have befallen everyone else.

Having read this now, I can definitely say that you don’t have to be a fan of this genre in order to enjoy it.

The phenomenal storytelling and the clever, intricate and twisty plot, combined with an incredibly well-developed cast of characters – each with a fiercely strong will to survive – will grab hold of you and keep you in its grip right up until the end of page.

Better still, you'll find yourself thinking about both the story and characters long after you've finished reading it. 

The book doesn't start off with a bang.

It starts with a wave; a ripple in the atmosphere.

Silent, deadly and insidious.

The First Wave

An electromagnetic pulse takes out half a million people. It kills the lights, renders electronic devices useless and causes a blanket of darkness to cover the earth.

Still, as far as things go, it's not all that bad. Bad yes, but nothing in comparison to the waves that follow.

The Second Wave?

Lasts a day, is not as silent and kills double the amount of people it did in the first wave. And all The Others - as they soon came to be known - had to do was cause a shift in the plates of the earth that would result in massive shock waves.

Take into fact that many of the world's population live along coastal lines, drop a rod the size of a supernova onto the earth, create super waves that results in a massive Tsunami and you'll have wiped out at least another 60 million people.

The Third Wave

Possibly the longest, but deadliest wave to hit. The Fourth Horseman is what the survivors call it. Either that or The Red Tsunami. It's also here where people learn to start hating birds.

You would too if you realised what kind of vessels they've been transformed into.  The deaths that occur here are bloody, painful and tantamount to experiencing one's body eating itself from the inside out.

Made you squirm, didn't I?

You're lucky if you survive this.  Of course, by this time, most of the survivors are in any case wishing for death; such is the nature of these lethal assaults.

 The Fourth Wave

"We are humanity", the safe haven claims. The only problem is, how do you trust that slogan when you're not even sure that the humans you're surrounded by are, in fact, human anymore?

And the 5th Wave?

Forget everything you know. Because that which is coming may have been around for a lot longer than what anyone could have suspected.

And in the midst of all the devastation, is 16-year old survivor, Cassie Sullivan who made a promise to find a way back to her brother.  The previous waves have taught Cassie that depending on yourself is a must, and that being alone is better than trusting anyone.

Yet when she meets Evan Walker, for the first time, Cassie needs to decide between surrendering herself to the elements and choosing to place her trust in a stranger who may or may not hold both her and her brother's salvation in his hands.

If you're looking for a book that will keep you up all night, blindside you with its unexpected twists and turns and leave you feeling completely exhausted, but utterly satisfied and demanding more, then Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave is a book that you definitely should be reading.

The first in a trilogy, this sci-fi novel is a mind-bendingly brilliant read that will take you on a psychological yo-yo ride from beginning to the end, and will still leave you wanting more.

The brilliance of this book does not lie in the idea of there being green, bug-eyed monsters running around in broad daylight and causing havoc and destruction wherever they go, but rather in the opposite.

The Others are not your run-of-the-mill aliens.  Instead, they're presented as these omniscient and omnipotent beings that know each and every human being's move, lending a menacing, sinister and chilling atmosphere to the entire book.

You'll be reading this book with the feeling of an impending sense of doom, because you'll come to realise that The Others are very, very smart.

The whisper of their presence and not their physical forms, is in itself an effective weapon; a perfect breeding ground for birthing raging doses of paranoia amongst the survivors.

After all, who do you trust, when you can't trust your own race? And trust, in a world where you've been stripped bare, is a commodity that cannot be freely dispensed.

You'll be dragged between feeling sympathy, despondency and desolation as you watch the various cast of characters struggling to survive. 

You'll also be rooting fiercely for the brave characters that feature in this book. A standing ovation goes to Ricky Yancey for creating some of the best female characters I've ever come across in fiction.

Brave. Heroic. Go-getters. The female protagonists will have you cheering them on all the way. It's also a great testimony to Rick's writing that he doesn't create characters that are perfect - instead, these characters are the kind of characters who feel real fear in the face of death, who act out because of that fear and whose trust issues have them lashing out at one another.

They've got the kind of depth that you don't often see in a lot of dystopian novels these days. Because the thing about this is that when you're in an environment where everything is demolished and taken away from you, you don't automatically become a superhero.

You fight, you cry and you die a little inside. And then you get up and do it again.

Because that is what true heroes do. And that is what this book is essentially about: the resilience of humans and their will to survive.

Do yourselves a favour and get yourselves a copy. It's the best book I've read this year so far (and I'm not even talking about the romantic aspect here, which in itself was a feature that only enhanced the book).