Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Author guest post: Dreaming fiction by Sarah Noffke

Today, I’d like to welcome YA author Sarah Noffke to my blog today. Sarah, who is the author of The Lucidites Series,  is here to chat about a subject that everyone,  but writers in particular, can relate to.

Dreams  and fiction.

This topic couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as it’s the last day of 2014 and we’re about to step into 2015. A new year is always a chance for us to start on a blank slate – new plans, new dreams…  you get my drift.

Given that Sarah’s series revolves around a girl whose dreams are premonitions of things to come, I thought it would be great for her to expand a little on the subject of dreams. 

Before I hand over to Sarah, here’s some info on the Awoken, the first book in the series.
Synopsis for Awoken:
Around the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent.

And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she?

That’s the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?
Add to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Over to Sarah…

Dreams and fiction

“I had the strangest dream,” my friend told me the other day. “It was like I watching an action movie.”

“You should write it down,” I told her.

She scoffed at me. “It was just a stupid dream.”

If Stephanie Meyer had said that, then there would be no Twilight Series.

Dreams, the usually nonsensical ramblings of our subconscious, are often dismissed by dreamers upon waking.

“So an alligator strolled into the room wearing a pair of shoes he said was made from an old lady. Can you believe I dreamed that?”

A dreamer might remark to a friend. Laughs will be had and then the dream will fade into the hustle of the waking world where it may never surface again.

No one will argue that dreams are strange and maybe most of the time just some babbling we need to release to make room for more information.

However, the act of dreaming, the actual REM state, has been touted for maintaining plasticity and chemical balances within the brain.

So since the act of dreaming is so critical to our wellbeing, maybe we should entertain the idea that the product is also of value—in some cases at least.

As I mentioned before, Stephanie Meyer claims she awoke from a dream with the idea for a vampire novel.
 
She is not alone in drawing inspiration from her dreams for fictional works. Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelly, and Charlotte Bronte all credit dreams for parts of their stories.

Robert Louis Stevenson actually crafted the riveting novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from a nightmare. That’s one way to turn the tables on the usual aggravation that comes after bolting awake from a night terror.

Stevenson was reported to be quite irritated with his wife for rousing him from the dream which inspired the classic story. “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale,” he said to his wife (Balfour, Graham (1912). The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson II. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 15–6. Retrieved 28 December 2012). 

My research on this topic made me realize that what lines the shelves of libraries are not just novels, but dream journals.

Countless volumes were inspired by the strangeness that fills dreamers’ heads at night. Some authors have claimed a single dream inspired their entire story, whereas others only attribute a single character or idea.

Still the takeaway remains the same: the strangeness of dreams can be woven into the greatest of stories.
 
It does take a creative mind to catch a dream upon waking and spin it into something that is less ethereal and more suited for the average reader, but it has been done time and time again.

So maybe the next time you awake from a fantastical dream, before you laugh about it with a friend, write it down. Take it seriously. You might have captured a masterpiece as great as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

About Sarah
Sarah Noffke is the author of The Lucidites Series. She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie.

Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world.

If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found.

She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde.

Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.

Where you can find her online:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

And the winner of the YA book hamper competition is…

Eek.

Hiya there my fellow book nerds

I’m so sorry for not posting these details any sooner. I’ve been focusing on wrapping up things at work before I go on leave (yay – tomorrow’s my last day for the year), which meant that my blog had to take a bit of a backseat.

I finally have some time though, so without further ado, the winner of the YA hamper giveaway is… Muneera, whose response to question posted on the giveaway is as follows:

The best book I've read this year is Landline by Rainbow Rowell. The male protagonist, Neal, is so dreamy. *sigh* he's grumpy and dislikes everything but, to paraphrase, loves his wife more than he hates everything else. Rainbow Rowell is a magical storyteller; her stories are engrossing and she writes the best female characters.

Congratulations! Just a little reminder about what you've won:


Please mail your details to me at tammybell78(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thanks to everyone else who entered the giveaway – and don’t worry, I’ve plenty of exciting things still in store, so look out for a new competition early in the New Year.

Huge thanks to the lovely Tarryn from Pan Macmillan SA who kindly sponsored this giveaway!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Double cover reveal: Greta and the Goblin King and Greta and the Glass Kingdom

Today, thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and Entangled Teen, I, amongst many other bloggers are hosting the cover reveal for Greta and the Goblin King and Greta and the Glass Kingdom.

I read the first book a year or so ago, and really enjoyed it, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Greta evolves in Greta and the Glass Kingdom.

Check out the gorgeous covers below!


Greta and the Goblin King 
(Mylena Chronicles #1)
Release Date: 12/11/12
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
While trying to save her brother from a witch’s fire four years ago, Greta was thrown in herself, falling through a portal to Mylena, a dangerous world where humans are the enemy and every ogre, ghoul, and goblin has a dark side that comes out with the eclipse.

To survive, Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young goblin king, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her will to escape.

But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. An ancient evil knows she’s the key to opening the portal, and with the next eclipse mere days away, every bloodthirsty creature in the realm is after her—including Isaac. If Greta fails, she and the lost boys of Mylena will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back...




Greta and the Glass Kingdom (Mylena Chronicles #2)
Release Date: February 2015
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
The sequel to the Hansel &; Gretel retelling Greta and the Goblin King ups the stakes of danger and romance. As conflict surges across Mylena, the tough Greta struggles to save those she loves.

Against all odds, Greta and the Goblin King miraculously survived the battle against the evil Agramon. Greta should be happy to be alive and ready to claim her place in Mylena by Isaac's side.

Yet nothing is the way she thought it would be. The battle against Agramon left a dark magick inside Greta that will eventually kill her. Isaac hasn't been the same since he almost went Lost. And there are whispers of a rebellion brewing throughout Mylena...


Determined to save Mylena from a bitter civil war, they travel to the mysterious Glass Kingdom to form an uneasy alliance with the deadly Faerie race. But when an unexpected disaster tears Greta and Isaac apart, she must make the journey on her own.

Along the way, she discovers a conspiracy stretching back to events she never thought she would have to revisit, betrayal from allies whose loyalty she never questioned, and an enemy vying to control all of Mylena.


Follow Greta into unexpected romance, explosive secrets, and shocking betrayals that will leave her and all of Mylena forever changed in the stunning second installment of The Mylena Chronicles.


About the Author
Chloe Jacobs is a native of nowhere and everywhere, having jumped around to practically every Province of Canada before finally settling in Ontario where she has now been living for a respectable number of years.

Her husband and son are the two best people in the entire world, but they also make her wish she'd at least gotten a female cat. No such luck.

And although the day job keeps her busy, she carves out as much time as possible to write.

Bringing new characters to life and finding out what makes them tick and how badly she can make them suffer is one of her greatest pleasures, almost better than chocolate and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

Author Links:
    photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png

Cover Reveal Organized by:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Win a YA book hamper featuring The Bane Chronicles, The Jewel, Fangirl, Deep Blue and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

So, with it being festive season, and my birthday month, I’ve teamed up with the fabulous Tarryn from Pan Macmillan to bring you this awesome giveaway.

In today’s giveaway, we’re offering one lucky reader a chance to win a hamper containing the following books: Cassandra Clare’s The Bane Chronicles, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (yup, for those who didn’t get a chance to win a copy of the book last time), Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

All you need to do is leave a comment telling me what the best book you’ve read this year is and you’ll be entered into this giveaway.

Bonus entries if you tweet or promote it in any form whatsoever.  Being a follower is not required, but it is always appreciated.

Giveaway closes on Sunday, 21 December. Winner announced on the same day.
Update: Extending it until tomorrow, 22 December.

This one’s open to South African residents only.

International lovelies, I haven’t forgotten about you – look out for a giveaway early in the New Year – there’ll be books and swag up for grabs!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Book review: The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

An enchanting little novel of hope and apple tarts, mixed with splashes of magic realism.

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 Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Published by Orion’s Children’s Books)
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s The Apple Tart of Hope  is one of the most delightful books I’ve read this year.  I’ve always been a huge sucker for quirky book titles, so when this one arrived on my desk, I absolutely knew I had to read it.

And what a captivating little read it turned out to be. 

With his penchant for baking the world’s most delicious apple tarts, Oscar Dunleavy has always been the kind-hearted, charismatic boy whom everyone loves and adores.

And no one is more aware of this than his younger brother, Stevie and his next door neighbour (who also happens to be his best friend), Meg.

So, when he goes missing and most of the town presumes that he’s dead, the only people who believe otherwise, and are determined to find out what happened to him, are Stevie and Meg. 

As days turn into weeks, and Meg starts giving into despair, it’s up to Stevie and a little thing called hope to remind her that in the magical world of apple tarts, there’s always, and I quote from the book jacket, “a crumb left.”

What they’ll come to learn is that things are not always what they seem, that everyone needs someone to believe in them when they’re taking that one extra step, and that friendship, loyalty and love are the very things needed to keep going when everyone else has already given up (It might seem cliché, but clichés are what they are because they’re true).

If you’ve been having a bad year and need a little pick-me-up novel, then the one book you should grab hold of is this one. 

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s Apple Tart of Hope is an exquisitely written book; one filled with so much beautiful prose and imagery, you’ll find yourself pausing at various intervals to just absorb her words.

To give you an example, I’m including this little quote from the below:

“When you grow up by the sea there's a kind of magic that never leaves you. The shimmery silver of salty mornings stays inside your bones. The rattling of windows on a winter night sharpens your senses. There's always power and deceptiveness in a flat blue sea. I'm a coast-town girl.  I know how quickly gentle water can turn into a foaming black mountain.”

Superb, isn’t it?

And if you think the writing is wonderful, just wait until you meet the characters.  From Oscar and Meg, to Stevie and Barney, Sarah has created a group of diverse characters who light up the pages of this novel with their radiant personalities.

Meg describes her best friend as someone who is kind of magic. And with his passion for saving people and baking apple tarts that can cure any malaise, it just doesn’t make sense that he would disappear.

So just what caused him to unravel? What would make a boy who has had everything to live for, disappear from the world?

The answer to that question?

A girl named Paloma; wicked, manipulative, nice-to-his-face-but-vicious-towards-him-behind-his-back, Paloma.

I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that she is probably one of the meanest girls I’ve come across in fiction. The lengths that she goes to in order to destroy a beautiful friendship (bordering on love), is absolutely shocking.

Meg and Oscar have always been close; so much so that she fights against having to go to another country for a few months with her parents. This plays a big role in the events that unfold, because Paloma uses this to her advantage; her systematic methods of breaking Oscar down showcasing the levels of self-loathing contained within her own self.

It’s a true testimony to the author’s writing ability when she creates characters that will leave you feeling discomforted and enraged by their bratty, entitled and vicious behaviour.

You’ll find yourself rooting all the way for Meg though; she’s a lovely and very sweet (without being saccharine) character. 

Her friendship with Stevie, Oscar’s younger and wheelchair-bound brother (a big yay for including a disabled character in the novel), is particularly heart-warming and I love how Sarah has written him – as if he’s a person whose disability does not define him. 

You often find authors including diverse characters as token roles, but Sarah has infused Stevie with a real, warm and very quirky personality that makes it impossible for you to dislike him.

A huge highlight of the story though is the friendship and budding relationship of Meg and Oscar.

It’s obvious that they share a special bond, and even though it’s tested severely throughout the novel, these two prove that a strong relationship can withstand the most malicious storms.


Do yourselves a favour – if you’re looking for a good bookish representation of hope, pick this one up; it will make you feel as if a torch has been lit up in the midst of your own dark circumstances.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blog tour (Book review): Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport + International giveaway

A magical, mystical and atmospheric retelling of Beauty in the Beast; the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport (published by Swoon Romance)


About the book:


When Elizabeth Ashton escapes her damaging city life and finds herself in the remote town of Hemlock Veils, Oregon, she is smitten by its quaint mystery; but the surrounding forest holds an enchantment she didn’t think existed, and worse, a most terrifying monster.


The town claims it vicious and evil, but Elizabeth suspects something is amiss.

Even with its enormous, hairy frame, gruesome claws, and knifelike teeth, the monster’s eyes speak to her: wolf-like and ringed with gold, yet holding an awareness that can only be human.


That’s when Elizabeth knows she is the only one who can see the struggling soul trapped inside, the soul to which she is moved.

Secretly, Elizabeth befriends the beast at night, discovering there’s more to his story and that the rising of the sun transforms him into a human more complex than his beastly self.

Elizabeth eventually learns that his curse is unlike any other and that a single murderous act is all that stands between him and his freedom.

Though love is not enough to break his curse, it may be the only means by which the unimaginable can be done: sacrifice a beauty for the beast.


Add to Goodreads

My review

What a fabulous and unexpected surprise this book turned out to be.


As someone who adores fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Hemlock Veils blog tour.  Besides, with books that describe the settings as being remote, quaint and enchanting, how could I not want to read this book?

I admit that I was a little nervous going into this book, as Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite stories, but luckily it soon proved that, despite some niggling issues, Hemlock Veils is a pretty wonderful adaptation of the much beloved classic.

Not only that, but Jennie Davenport effortlessly takes the bones of the story and moulds it into her own, providing the reader with a wholly unique experience that will linger with bibliophiles for days.  

Elizabeth is a pretty remarkable character.

Escaping from the hell that her life had become following the events that forced her to steal money from her employer, for the sake of her drug addicted brother, and which subsequently led to him being shot in front of her, Elizabeth finds herself stranded in the remote town of Hemlock Veils.

Luckily, one of the residents in the forest arrives to assist her with her car troubles, and grudgingly invites her to stay a night or two in town while she waits for her vehicle to be repaired. It’s while she’s walking with her would-be saviour, that they encounter the beast that has been terrorising the locals for years.

Of course, what Elizabeth encounters after a few brief, heart-stopping moments, is a beast that seems more human than monster.

Now it’s at this point that I did find the fact that she lost her fear of him so quickly to be rather unbelievable, but given the magic realism elements in the story, I do think that there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that this book requires.
 

Elizabeth eventually finds herself charmed by the quirky and hidden little town and its locals, and decides to settle down in order to start over.  It’s here where she encounters Henry Clayton, the cold and hardened businessman who owns the place.

Henry, for his part, refuses to make Elizabeth welcome and lets her know in no uncertain terms that she should leave. The two butt heads, argue and exchange plenty of heated words over the next few weeks, even during the moments when she tries to befriend him.

I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. It’s easy to guess why Henry wants to get rid of Elizabeth; and while Elizabeth is quick to connect the dots, the build up to their romance is a slow burn, one that takes a good time to develop.  

Henry, for his part, tries very hard to push Elizabeth away, preferring to stick to his beastly form when he goes on his nightly walks in the forest with Beth (by this time she’s established a friendship with the beast).

As a whole, Jennie’s characters are interesting, very well drawn and have flaws that add an even more interesting dynamic to it. The local characters are pretty interesting in their own right and enhance the feeling of community within the small town.

What stands out strongly is the fact that a lot of social commentary is also interwoven into the novel; including examples of rape culture and the highlighting of the dangers of mob mentality.


There’s also interesting mythology that forms part of this retelling, and it’s this that adds that extra unique make element to it. I won’t spoil it for you, but the folk lore that features in here only serves to make the ending so unconventional in comparison to the story that most of us are familiar with.

Overall, while I did find myself struggling to believe the way some things played out, I can truly say that this is a retelling that is definitely worth the read.  

Buy Links:

Amazon


About the Author

Though Jennie Davenport was raised throughout the Midwest, she now lives in the little desert mining town of Bagdad, Arizona, where six guys beg for her constant attention: a husband, three young, blond sons, a German shepherd with a name much mightier than his disposition (Zeus), and a black cat named Mouse.

When she isn’t trying to run her home with as little casualties as possible, Jennie loves snuggling with her family, laughing with her friends, delving into brilliant entertainment of any vein, and playing outside.

Despite the way being a writer is in her blood, and the wheels of her writerly mind are constantly turning, Jennie likes to think that in another life, she would have been a Broadway star. Or an American Idol finalist.

Jennie lives for the fall, and not just because of her adoration for the NFL (Go Broncos!). In her perfect world, she would have the springs, summers, and falls of Colorado, and the winters of Arizona—someplace where the climate and weather would allow her to go on a trail run all year round.

But even though she prefers the pines and mountains, she is a devoted fan of all nature, from sandy beaches to woodsy cabins, and all are her greatest inspiration. She believes nature is one of the best healing remedies, with a magic all its own.

Jennie’s passion for writing is the way she survives, and is as vital to her sanity as oxygen, caffeine, food, and music. Even before she began writing it, well-told, original, and character-driven romance was always her weak spot. Add the paranormal or magical realism element and she may never make it back to reality.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Check out the rest of the tour schedule by clicking on the image below.
http://yaboundbooktours.blogspot.com/2014/09/blog-tour-sign-up-hemlock-veils-by.html

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Guest post: Confessions of a reluctant book lender

In which a lovely friend of mine confesses why she’s not big on lending her books out to other people… because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than someone who does not return the book that someone lent to them.

Thanks lovely SAHedgehog (not her real name obviously)
 

Disclaimer:
This post was also featured on Women24.com 


I don’t like to lend out my books. I don’t believe that makes me a terrible person but it isn’t something I’m wildly proud of.

When I was 12 I lent a book to my bestie who (when I asked for it back) told me she’d lent it to a friend of hers.

I know it has been almost 2 decades but I still remember the mild flutterings of panic for my Sweet Valley Twins book that was lent out without my permission.

Yes I got it back and the friendship continued smoothly. I’m not THAT awful. But fast forward to adulthood and I’m a very hesitant book lender. 

Years ago a work friend e-mailed me asking to borrow a book and hinted heavily at my prized Marian Keyes collection.

Mustering up every shred of goodwill I lent her a book (by another author) which I found in a bargain box at a book sale.

And even then only because I didn’t like that particular book.

An aunt of mine regularly borrows books and returns them in pristine condition.

I once lent her a book I hadn’t read yet (proof I can be generous) and the book returned looking as if it had never left the book store.

She looks after things – a characteristic I’ve found not everyone possesses.

Last November (against my better judgement) I lent books to a friend’s boyfriend who promised to look after them.

It is now over 9 months and I haven’t heard a hint of getting my books back. My e-mail asking politely to return them has been conveniently ignored as has my Facebook message.

I find it difficult to comprehend the mentality of asking someone to lend you something and then just never bothering to return it.

Do you think after a certain amount of time I’ll forget who I lent it to? Do you assume ignoring my reminders will ensure I’ll just give up? 

Am I supposed to feel embarrassed because I keep asking for something that is rightfully mine?

I have no doubt he has lost the books and ignoring the issue is the way he chooses to deal with it.

The cost to replace this will be around R300 but it isn’t just the monetary value. It is the way some people have no respect for another person’s property.

A bookworm never forgets and this one will certainly never lend this person anything again.

Do you lend your books out? And if so, have you had a similar situation? How did you deal with it?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mini book review: Glimpse by Kendra Leighton

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog. For this section of my blog, I usually feature reviews of books that don’t really require them – books bought, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books I’ve taken out at the library.

Because they’re not must-review books, my format of these mini reviews differ in that I don’t work the summary into my review in my own words; instead, I feature the Goodreads summary, followed by a few thoughts on my reading experience.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on Glimpse by Kendra Leighton.

Glimpse summary from Goodreads (published in 2014, by Much-in-Little, an imprint of Constable & Robinson)


Liz just wants to be normal. Her life is anything but.

Seven years ago Liz lost her mother and ten years' worth of memories. When she inherits the infamous Highwayman Inn, she hopes the move will be a fresh start. Then she meets Zachary.

Zachary who haunts her by night and in dreams; who makes her question everything she is and wants to be; who seems scarcely real - yet makes her feel so alive.

Inspired by Alfred Noyes' classic poem 'The Highwayman', Glimpse is a ghost story, a love story, and a story of a girl fighting for her future by confronting her terrible past.


My thoughts:
Ok, so after initially finding this book intriguing, I'm very disappointed to say that everything else that followed ended up being one huge disappointment for me.

The Highway Man is one of my all-time favourite poems - I love the haunting imagery, the prose of the poem and the air of tragedy that embodies it.

So, it stands to reason that while I didn't expect a blow-by-blow adaptation of it, I did hope and expect that the book would at least capture the essence of the poem.

Unfortunately, I think the book really failed at this.

The ghostly aspects didn't haunt, the protagonist was just another overly done character trope and I just didn't connect with her or the events that unfolded in the story.

Oh and the almost love story and how it was resolved in the end? For me (and I'm once again sorry to say this) it felt like an absolute cop-out; one that I just didn't buy, especially given the fact that I already wasn't sold on the idea of Liz and Zachary as a couple in the first place.

I think the main problem with retellings (and this is by no means any author's fault) is that we as the readers, demand so much from it.

We expect either the same versions with better endings, or something better than the original product. And sometimes it's this that results in us failing to separate our visions of what it should be from the picture that is presented to us.

Which is exactly what happened to me with Glimpse.

Over all, I don't think it's a completely horrible read - I just wouldn't go out of my way to purchase a copy of the book; if you're going to read it, get it from the library.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Author guest post: From fanfiction to fiction by Natalia Jaster

Today I’d like to welcome author Natalia Jaster to my blog today.  Natalia, who is the author of the recently released YA novel, Touch (which is a retelling of the Eros myth), is here to talk about how she went from writing fanfiction to writing original fiction.

Now as a self-proclaimed fanfiction junkie, I have to admit that when she first contacted me, the first thing I did was go and search for her on Fanfic (because that’s what we readers do, right? I’m not a stalker Natalia – I promise).

If you, like me, are a Hunger Girls, fan – you should definitely go check out her profile and stories on the site – they’ve been getting some amazing reviews. 

Now you’d think that because one write’s fanfiction, it would be easy to write fiction, right?

Not so, she says. 

Which is why, in today’s guest post, she tells us a little more about her transition and what it was like to take a fanfic story she’d written  and transform it into something that would become Touch, her debut YA novel.

Before I hand over the reins though, here’s some more information about the book.  

About Touch (Summary from Goodreads):

The myth of Eros isn’t the truth. Her story is the truth . . .

Love is an immortal bad girl. With a strike of her arrow and a smirk on her face, she pins human hearts together against their will.

It’s for their own good, of course—silly, clueless creatures that they are.

But Love has never loved. Not until the Fates parcel her off to a small, frostbitten town littered with needy souls.

Not until she crosses paths with Andrew, a crippled boy whose gaze locks onto hers. Yet how can this be? Mortals don't have the power to see deities.

The longer they’re friends, the more Love wishes she could touch Andrew. In gentle ways. In other tempting and reckless ways as well.

It’s impossible. She isn’t a true part of his world. She’s an outsider whose fingers will only ever sweep through him.

A mischievous, invisible goddess who’s destined to be alone. And he’s destined for someone else. By order of the Fates, it’s Love’s duty to betray his trust. To seal his heart while ignoring the gash in her own.

Or she could become human. For there is one very tricky, very dangerous way to do so.

If only Andrew felt the same about her, it might be worth the risk.

*Mature YA. Intended for readers 17 and older*
 

Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Buy links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iBooks


Over to Natalia:

From fanfiction to fiction:

I should start by saying that this is my very first guest post! And so, I figured the best thing to write about was how I got here to begin with.

Over two years ago, I started writing fanfiction. Since then, one of those fanfics has become an original YA mythology romance called Touch.

The transition definitely wasn’t simple, but here’s how it happened.

Immersing myself in fanfiction had completely freed up my writing. There was no pressure to submit to literary agents (something I’d been doing for years), nor any competition amidst thousands of other writers.

I didn’t have to worry about whether my ideas or my prose were unique enough. I wrote fearlessly and without censure, spending time with characters I adored and dropping them into whatever alternative universes I wanted, which split my creative mind wide open.

One of those fanfics never left my head. In terms of plot construction, it was the least complete of my stories. Yet I loved its premise and knew that I’d barely gotten a glimpse of what it could be. The thought of it becoming its own tale was thrilling.

That’s all it took. Or maybe that’s all it ever takes—that spark.

You’d think that turning a fanfic into an original novel would have been easy, right? I mean, thousands of words were already written.

All that needed to be cut were the canon elements: quotes, character quirks and descriptions, symbolism, particular canon settings and conflicts, etc.

Wrong.

Revisiting the fanfic with fresh eyes, months after its posting, changed the way I read it. I had to get to know my characters all over again, as individuals coming from my own inspiration, not from a pre-existing work.

Also, there were tons of things that needed meticulous fixing: logic, pacing, and a more fleshed-out backstory, just to name a few.

Certain features did stay the same, like the setting (a contemporary town in the winter) and the basic, “alternative universe” premise that I’d come up with (a female Eros being forced to pair up the mortal boy she loves with another mortal girl).

And in the end, it was a balance of old and new. Revised scenes and brand new scenes. Tighter, more polished rules of the mythological magic. Intensified relationships, with their own special qualities.

True, the myth of Eros is a classic one, so Touch is a still re-imagining of something that’s already been around.

Many retellings in novels—of fairytales, legends, and the literary classics—are ultimately fanfiction, and it seems that very few tales are wholly original.

Stories will forever react to other stories.

But our imagination has an important part to play. How we react to those other stories, how they inspire and twist our own writing—that’s what makes us unique.

About Natalia:
My kindergarten teacher told my mom than I stared out the window too much, daydreaming instead of paying attention in class.

It’s true.

Eventually I learned to focus more in school (and to love it), but the daydreaming never stopped.

So after earning my master’s in creative writing and spending a bunch of fun years as a magazine editor, I’m now a writer of YA romance.

I’m also a total fool for first-kiss scenes, fanfiction, libraries, and starry nights.

TOUCH is my first book.

Where you can find her online:
Her Tumblr
Her Goodreads profile

Thanks for stopping by Natalia. I can't wait to read Touch!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

A seductive and imaginative urban gothic fantasy novel that warps the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and transforms it into a world that you’ve never known before.

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

Splintered by A.G. Howard (Published by Amulet, an imprint of Abrams & Chronicle Books)
Alice in Wonderland – a delightful little classic that saw many of us take an imaginary trip into a world filled with all sorts of fantastical nonsense. 

It’s a world in which most of us can easily envision ourselves living in; and one where stumbling upon a tea party is an everyday occurrence.

This, however, is not that book.  

While Splintered certainly pays tribute to Alice in Wonderland, the book takes it one step further. It pays homage to Alice Liddell - the girl who originally inspired Lewis Caroll’s classic.

If I had to think of one way to describe my experience of this book, it would be like I was tripping on acid – in the best way possible.

There’s a languid, hedonistic and lush quality about this book that makes you want to drown in all the sensuous imagery contained within its pages.

You find yourself immersed in the setting. It’s a dark and seductive world filled with creatures, the likes of which you’ve never encountered before (and in some cases, probably wouldn’t want to).

It’s a feast for the senses; a world that you know is dangerous, but one that you can’t help but want to indulge in - over and over again.

And if you thought the topsy-turvy settings for the original novel was delightfully quirky, well, it has nothing on this book.  

Splintered chronicles the story of the feisty, dying-to-be-independent Alyssa Gardner.

With a rather unwelcome ability to communicate with plants and all manner of bugs, the quirky teen can’t help but wonder if she’s following the same path as her mother, and that she too, might end up being institutionalised.

The truth is that Alyssa is neither crazy nor on any hallucinogenic drug.She just happens to be a descendent of Alice Liddell, a relative who may have been responsible for a curse that has been afflicting Alyssa’s family line for decades.

When she learns that there’s more to the fictional story, Alice bravely decides to try and fix the wrongs of the past and soon finds herself in the heart of a Wonderland filled with netherlings and murderous queens.

Once she’s in, she quickly finds out that getting out is nowhere near as simple as she assumed it would be.

With her best friend (who she’s had a crush on for forever) and Morpheus (the moth-winged and magnetically attractive guide who may or may not have his own agenda), Alice soon finds herself engaged in a battle of wits.

I’ve mentioned this at the beginning of my review, but I’ll say it again: what a delightfully dark, wicked and twisted novel.

I’ve read my fair share of retellings and books that are loosely adapted from classics, but in my experience, I’ve never encountered anything quite like Splintered. 

With its beautiful descriptions, juxtaposed with dark undercurrents, I couldn’t help but fall in love.

From the characters and writing, to the world-building and unfolding plot, the beautifully fractured world of Splintered will have you devouring this book in much the same way that a child consumes ice-cream.

Anita has created a wonderful character in Alyssa. She’s a skater-punk chick with colourful hair and sports a fabulously retro, boho and grungy vintage look I’ve always wanted to achieve, but pathetically failed at.

She’s brave, gutsy and an absolute go-getter – so much so, that it does sometimes end up being to her detriment.  With her desperation to save her mother, while at the same time striving to prove her independence, Alyssa is a character that you just can’t help but love.

Her relationship with the two boys in the book is pretty well-drawn and incredibly interesting. Normally, love triangles just piss me off, but Anita manages to portray the developing relationships in such a way that you can’t help but root for both boys.

Each boy has his flaw(s); Jeb has a tendency to curtail Alyssa’s burgeoning independence by being too overprotective, while Morpheus tends to be suspiciously unreliable and sometimes downright untrustworthy at times. 

Still, I reckon at this point in time, Morpheus, with his tattooed eyes, pretty moth-wings, top hats and angsty sultriness is slightly ahead of Jeb. Who knows though, it could change at any point.   

I love the way the events in this book unfold and all the various characters we encounter along the way.  It’s clear that these netherlings are far from cuddly, some of them actually bordering on the grotesque. 

I’ve mentioned the gorgeous writing before, but just to give you a sample of what you can expect, here are two of my favourite passages from the book:
“He's a contradiction: taut magic coiled to strike, gentleness at war with severity, a tongue as sharp as a whip's edge, yet skin so soft he could be swathed in clouds.” 

And…
“Morpheus is not his true name. He is glory and deprecation—sunlight and shadows—the scuttle of a scorpion and the melody of a nightingale. The breath of the sea and the cannonade of a storm.

Can you relay birdsong, or the sound of wind, or the scurry of a creature across the sand? For the proper names of netherlings are made up of the life forces defining them. Can you speak these things with your tongue?”

One thing is certain, Anita Howard knows how to entice and beguile readers, not just with words, but with the sheer decadence of the subversive world that she’s created.

I can’t wait to read the next two books in this trilogy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fangirl giveaway winner & other bookish things!

Hi book lovelies

So, a huge, huge thank you for those of you who entered the Fangirl giveaway.  Given all the lovely responses, I would send you each a copy of the book if I could, but alas… that decision doesn’t fall to me.

Without further ado, the winner of the signed copy of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl as well as the Fangirl necklace is:  

Munira Hoosain
, whose response to my question (Which book have you recently been fangirling over) was as follows:
I've been fangirling over Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy!

It has mind-blowing magic systems, unforgettable characters and breathtaking fight scenes. The plot twists are unexpected and provide all the feels. The books are 700+ pages long but you don't notice the length until you finish it and give your arms a break.

It's an excellent YA high fantasy read.
Congratulations Munira!


You have 48 hours to send me an e-mail with your details (tammybell78(at)gmail(dot)com, thereafter which another winner will be chosen should you not respond on time.

As mentioned,  I will be doing an International giveaway soon – so if you haven’t won this time around, look out for that.

In the meantime, coming up this week:
  • On the blog tomorrow – a review of Splintered (which I absolutely loved)
  • A book talk post about the kind of readers I’ve encountered &
  • A review of the Iron Witch Trilogy (which I also adored – and if my time allows. *sigh*)

Until next time,
Yours in books always
Tammy

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book review & giveaway: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Meet and become best friends with the book that was written for every single person who’s ever obsessively geeked out over some form of pop culture.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Pan Macmillan 2014)
Welcome to the Fandom.

It’s a place where the world you created may not belong to you, but in which you get to change the rules in a way that leaves you with the freedom to be in control.

For most people, the fandom is a treasure palace that encourages the inner geek in everyone to embrace living life vicariously through the eyes and stories of protagonists that are, in many cases more real to us than the people we’re surrounded by on a daily basis.

Being a fangirl/fanboy of anything pop culture related often leaves us feeling as if we have one foot in this expanded fantasy, while the other foot forces us to maintain a sentient presence in our corporeal world.

As someone who considers herself to be the ultimate shipper of note, I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that it’s so much better to squee over your favourite non-canon (or canon) pairing from your favourite fiction novel/tv series/etc, than it is to deal with daily life skill tasks that require effort, confidence and willingness to endure whatever life throws your way.

Which is exactly why you’ll find yourself rooting for and absolutely adoring the quirky, clever and socially awkward Cath in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Do yourself a favour – if you’re as chronically awkward and socially challenged as I am, then please give this book a read.

Not only is Fangirl relatable on so many different levels, but it’s quite possibly the quirkiest and most adorable book I’ve read this year.

The book kicks off when we’re first introduced to Cath. It’s her first day at Uni and Wren, her identical twin, wants no part of the two-peas-in-the-pod closeness that used to define their bond. 

With Wren branching out on her own – partying it up, meeting boys and making new friends, Cath finds trying to adjust to University incredibly hard.

With her penchant for being a fangirl (and fanfiction writer) of a popular book series  -which is totally an ode to Harry Potter - Cath much prefers to  spend all of her time online.

In spite of her intentions to remain friendless (and to hide from the rest of the world and avoid going down for dinners in the main hall), two of the most unexpected people (the kind of people Cath would normally avoid at all costs) dive headlong into her life, upsetting her carefully planned and ordered existence.

What follows is a journey full of bumps, laughs, awkwardness and complete and utter geekdom as we watch how Cath unfurls and transforms from person-allergic-to-anyone-else-except-for-her-sister-and-father, to learning how to embrace and accept the new challenges and experiences that are thrown her way.

This book is just so utterly, utterly delightful.

I’ve come across many a book character where I’ve felt I could relate to aspects of their personality, but if there’s one book that I feel encapsulates the sheer hell of going to University for the first time – and all the timid, frightening and feel-so-small-and-new-I-could-crawl-into-a-hole-and-disappear feelings that go with it – then it’s this one.

Even thinking about it now makes me cringe a little (although I should add that I’m still the awkward penguin today that I was back then).

Rowell just has this way of creating a dialogue that’s filled with such sharp, witty  and hilarious moments that you’ll either spend most of your time squealing with glee, or having the laughter  being surprised out of you.

Her characters are infinitely loveable (despite the fact that you’ll want to shake some sense into them every now and then), the incorporation of fanfiction (or in this case, Fanfixx) is made of awesome and the sister-sister bond between Cath and Wren will fill you with all the fuzzy feels.

Their relationship is one that certainly goes through a tough transition as it’s clear that they’re both dealing with issues and coping in different ways.

With college courses taking their toll and Cath’s unwillingness to immediately step outside of her shell, it’s only a matter of time before things come to a head. And when it does (because life has a way of jack-knifing you in the stomach sometimes), both Cath and Wren need to decide whether their bond is strong enough to pull them back together again.

And this is yet another reason I love this book. Rowell’s depiction of the relationship between the twins is one of the best aspects of the novel. 

Many of us who have siblings will understand what it’s like to fight, rage with said siblings and in the very next heartbeat, love the living daylights out of them. 

Rainbow understands that and she uses it to create a relationship that’s both realistic and full of well-developed depth.  

Some of the most tender moments of the book occur when Wren and Cath are together.

And speaking of Cath, she really doesn’t give herself enough credit for being the amazing girl that she is; she’s funny (without trying to be), snarky and adorably sheepish (when she’s not being awkward). 

It’s only when Reagan (the fabulously aggressive new roommate who takes it upon herself to befriend Cath)  and Levi - the lanky, adorable and utterly crush-worthy boy who keeps invading her space – show up in her life, that Cath finally begins to see that there’s more to life than fanfiction.

And that maybe embracing new things does not mean having to give up her entire identity. And isn’t that something we all can relate to?

Do yourself a favour  and pick this book up. It’s the cutest book you’ll read this year.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!
Thanks to the lovely, lovely folk from Pan Macmillan South Africa, I’m giving one lucky reader a chance to win a signed copy of Fangirl, as well as a Fangirl necklace. 


All you have to do is leave a comment telling me about the latest book you’ve been fangirling about.

Giveaway will run up until the 31 October and is open to South African residents only
(Sorry lovely internationals, I’ve got another comp planned in the near future, so look out for that).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mini review: Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog. For this section of my blog, I usually feature reviews of books that don’t really require them – books bought, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books I’ve taken out at the library.

Because they’re not must-review books, my format of these mini reviews differ in that I don’t work the summary into my review in my own words; instead, I feature the Goodreads summary, followed by a few thoughts on my reading experience.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen.

Lock & Key Summary from Goodreads (Puffin Books)

"Ruby, where is your mother?"

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around.

A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true.

So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive?

And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

My thoughts:

Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful read.

Sarah Dessen's ability to write stories with so much raw and emotive realism is something to behold and it’s one that only serves to remind me exactly why she's one of my favourite authors.

Funnily enough, my experience with this novel is pretty much a metaphor for this very book.

I initially picked this up a few months back, only to toss it aside after a few pages in because it - believe it or not - bored me.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm at the library, where once again, I waffled over this book.

Should I pick it up or not? Take it or leave it?

At the last moment I decided to eventually take the book out after all, deciding that maybe I was just in a bad mood the last time and that I should give this one a second chance.

And that is how I ended up reading and falling in love with this book second time round.

Lock and Key is essentially a novel about learning to come to terms with change.  Now I know that it sounds rather trite when put in such simple terms, but bear with me while I try to articulate my thoughts.

It’s a book about abandonment and it’s a book about deciding whether or not to adapt and stay or run for the hills.

It’s a novel that’s about taking chances on people when you’ve never had anyone betting on and believing in you and it’s one about accepting that some truths are never what you expect them to be.

Mostly though, Lock and Key is the story of how one girl learns that sometimes everyone - regardless of which side of the track they come from - needs a little help.

Ruby Cooper has every reason to expect the worst.

Her trust does not come easily,  and as a result, she's learnt how to take care of  and rely on herself.

When her mother abandons her, she unexpectedly finds herself being rescued by the sister she hasn't seen for years , as well as moving from the wrong side of town to a place of wealth she’s never known before.

And it’s here within where her journey lies.

I’ve always loved characters that display snarling, wounded-animal-like defensive traits – simply because underneath the vicious exterior, you’ll often find a chest of hidden and untold things - and Ruby is the very embodiment of this.

Being someone that’s had to be more of a maternal figure to her own mother than her mom  has ever been to her,  her attitude takes on a new level of defensiveness when she first moves in with her sister.

Wary of having something good happening to her, and not trusting her new found stability, Ruby is determined to be a transient presence in her new home until she can find an opportune time to escape.

Except that things don’t quite unfold in a way that she predicts, because soon -  and despite her best intentions to avoid it - she manages to make friends.

Not only that but she starts to see that maybe she may just have a shot at salvaging her future.

Of course, things also get complicated when the boy next door takes an interest.

However, just as she settles in, her world is once again turned upside down when she learns a few hard truths about her mother.

With her world crumbling around her, Ruby has to decide whether she should run away or trust people just one more time.

Lock & Key takes an in-depth look into how Ruby develops; from the just-becoming-hopeful moments, to dealing with the uglier issues hiding underneath her devil-may-care façade.  

There are themes of recurring abuse that is dealt with in such an open and honest manner, that you can’t help but feel for all the characters involved (perhaps with the exception of Ruby’s love interest, Nate’s father), regardless of their actions.

Sarah’s writing is sharp, edgy and stripped of all artifice; something which I thought definitely suited the tone of the book and made it so much more powerful for it.

As for the supporting characters, well, I wish I could delve a little deeper and give you some more insight into them, but that would be spoiling the experience you can look forward to when you encounter them for the first time.

What I can say though, is that each of them are beautifully drawn out and written in a manner that speaks of an unflinching amount of raw honesty.

All in all, Lock & Key is a beautiful and haunting read that speaks about the bonds of family and how it shapes and changes you, and it's one that shows that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to learn to accept help, while at the same time also learning to assist others.

Thank God I decided to give this book a second chance, because Lock and Key is one of Sarah Dessen’s finest novels – and officially a new favourite of mine. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Sometimes the answers we’re looking for and that which we hope for lies in the very thing we fear the most.

Disclaimer:
A shortened version of 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 Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Orbit)
M.R. Carey’s Girl with All the Gifts is one of the most thought-provoking and gut-wrenching dystopian thrillers I’ve read this year so far.

It’s a novel that explores the heart of a rag-tag group of people and their will to survive in a world shot to hell and it’s a book that pushes boundaries in terms of the ethics versus science debate.

It’s literature that is at once filled with beauty, while at the same time highlights the shabby condition of humanity - both physically and emotionally.

Mostly though, it’s a book that at its core is filled with so much heart and is so beautifully written, that you’ll be haunted by its contents for years to come.

The Girl with All the Gifts is the story of Melanie.

Melanie is a precocious little girl.  She’s clever, insatiably curious and is, by all rights, as normal as they come.

Except that she’s not.

You see, when’s she collected from the cell she resides in, she’s strapped in by two men, while the leader, Sergeant Parks, points a gun at a head. She accepts this even if she doesn’t quite understand it.

She even jokes that she won’t bite.

And while there is a revelation that is on the edge of waiting to be revealed, what Melanie doesn’t realise is that she actually can bite, and that given the right circumstances it seems to only be inevitable that she will.

Will she survive the condition that she lives with? Or will she succumb to the relentless hunger and emotionally brainlessness that plague others of her kind?

I first received an early review copy of The Girl with All the Gifts towards the end of last year. 

The tagline on the cover (the final cover doesn’t have this line on the front jacket) read as follows: “Melanie has a gift for us all. But it’s a secret.”

Now with a line like that, it’s hard not to be intrigued. When I read the blurb, I was even more sold on the concept.

With a deliberately vague description in the summary, I pretty much went into this book without really knowing what to expect.

When I closed the last page of the book, I came out feeling haunted by the events, but also strangely sad and uplifted at the same time.

In short, The Girl with All the Gifts is a book that I’m unlikely to forget any time soon.

Beautifully descriptive, while being simultaneously stark and bleak, this book is a zombie novel with so much beauty and heart amidst all the desolation.

Forget all the previous ones you’ve read – this book takes on the ethics of experimenting on live subjects and manages to evoke a sense of kinship with the high functioning non-humans, of which Melanie just so happens to be one.

In this book, the characters we get to know are as follows:

- Melanie: one of the many children being held at a military base – a kind of human battery farm if you will),

- Sergeant Eddie Parks: one of the main leaders in charge of patrolling the base and ensuring that everything runs smoothly), 

- Helen Justineau: the teacher whom Melanie comes to love, and

-Caroline Caldwell:  the ruthless scientist who, while searching for a cure for the zombie plague, doesn’t hesitate to use the highly-functioning “hungries” as experiments  to further her research).

- Kieren Gallagher: right hand to Sergeant Parks 

When a breach of the military control results in complete and utter chaos, this rag-tag team find themselves escaping into the wilderness in search of safety.

Of course, given that they’re in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been overtaken by a zombie plague, the concept of safety is a luxury. 

With very little food, weapons and having to deal with Melanie, whom they don’t trust given her nature, their journey to finding a safe harbour is fraught with tension, inevitable clashes and moments of deep despair.

In spite of this, what follows is an interesting journey, one that will have you cheering wholeheartedly for Melanie, high-fiving the take-no-crap-from-anyone Helen Justineau, reluctantly respecting the eminently practical Sergeant Parks, feeling sympathy for the green-as-grass Gallagher, while outright loathing Dr Caldwell. 

Melanie is a little darling of a girl.

She’s tough, resourceful and falls under the incredibly high-functioning scale of hungries (low scale being the ones who have no capability to feel any human emotion and only respond to scent triggers that alert them to prey).

Melanie is a girl who needs to eat flesh, but doesn’t want to. And it’s this that sets her apart, even though Parks, Gallagher and Caldwell are wary of her.

Her relationship with Helen is an added dynamic that humanises her and results in her being fiercely protective of Justineau in the midst of the worst kind of danger.

It takes a while but she eventually manages to reach an understanding with both Parks and Gallagher.

Caldwell on the other hand, is one of the most infuriating characters in this book. While I found myself with a modicum of understanding for the research work she wanted to do, my feelings were tempered by her selfish, ruthless and calculated coldness.

Her desire to get her hands on Melanie, at times, overrode her desire for everyone’s safety. 

There’s an interesting mythological element that plays a huge part in the conclusion of the book. It’s something that at first seems so insignificant when mentioned, but makes for an interesting twist at the end.

With that said, I really could go on and on about this book, but in the end, this is a book that needs to be experienced, and not read via review osmosis.
 

Do yourself a favour – pick it up. It might just become your new favourite book. I know it certainly is mine.