Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

I absolutely can't wait. I'm so, so very thrilled with this trailer. I'm incredibly impressed with the acting - more than I ever thought I would be, given that there's been so many of the books I love that were adapted to film, never quite matched up to my expectations. Both in terms of casting, acting and presentation.

I have high hopes for this. Very high hope
s.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book review: Trafficked by Kim Purcell

Behind the facade of the white picket fence, lies a house filled with the ugliest of secrets and the dirtiest of lies.
 
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.

Trafficked by Kim Purcell (Speak)
When I first finished reading this book, I had no intention of giving it a very high rating.

In fact, my initial thought was that this book was maybe worth a fair-weathered 3 out of 5. Good, but not all that mesmerising.

Since I was so indecisive about it, I decided to step back from focusing on the technical aspects of rating, and just reflect on the contents of the book over the days that would follow (something I usually do with most books I read anyway).

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that, actually, this is the kind of book I really, really love.

Sure, it left me with more questions than answers, but don't some of the best books do that?

The good characters made my heart ache, the antagonists made me rage against the injustices they inflicted on others and the story itself was filled with so much heart, that when I think back on it now, I can't for the life of me remember why I wanted to dismiss this as an average book.

Actually, wait. Bear with me for a bit, because I think I do know why.

A lovely writer friend and I were having a discussion about how many of the commercial reads out there seem to be following and doing what most blockbuster movies are doing these days: going with a storyline, but focusing on the ‘bang, bang, pow!’ aspects of the story, instead of the heart and soul of the actual story itself.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, and goodness knows, I do enjoy my fair share of action-packed, plot-driven stories, I think that we often forget about just how wonderful stories that have more subtle nuances and focus more on subtext and what lies beneath the surface, are.

Because sometimes, it’s those what’s-not-being-said moments that speak the loudest, and to me, Trafficked is one such book.

I don’t deny that this book is for everyone. In fact, if you’re a fan of books where everything knits itself together and all loose ends are tied up, then you may just want to give this one a skip.

However, if you want to see a realistic portrayal of a topic that is a tragic reality, and one that will leave you thinking about it for days on end, then this is just the book for you.

Hannah is a beautiful 16-year old girl from Moldova (near to Ukraine and Romania).

Having lost her parents in a bomb blast, things haven’t been going well for her and her ailing babushka.

When she’s offered the chance to work as a nanny in Los Angeles, she grabs it with both hands, with the reasoning that she’d not only be able to learn English, but that she’d eventually earn enough money to send back home.

Upon arriving, it’s not long before Hannah discovers that the dream she’s been offered, is a far cry from the reality she finds herself in.

At first everything appears to be going well. Hannah’s placed with Sergey, Lillian, Maggie and Michael, a Russian family who live in a beautiful suburban area - one that is a carbon cut-out of the American dream ideal.

Expected to work and clean, Hannah’s only too happy to help, excited by the prospect of earning and raising enough money for her ailing grandmother’s operation.  It also helps that she gets along with the children almost right from the start.

But soon Hannah begins to notice some things.

Things such as: why she’s working 16 hours a day; things such as her never being allowed to leave the house, and things such as the fact that after the first few weeks of being there, she still hasn’t been paid.

What she also can’t miss is Sergey’s wife, Lillian’s increasingly hostile behaviour towards her.

And the thinly-veiled insinuations from Lillian’s sharp-tongued friend, Rena? It only serves to increase Lillian’s suspicions and raging paranoia.

To make matters worse, there are times that Hannah is convinced that Sergey wants something more from her than just a friendly smile, something that she’s not prepared to give.

As the weeks mount and the tension builds, she not only begins to suspect that something’s wrong in the household she’s staying in, but also that the reason she was chosen may be closely linked to the reason why her parents were killed.

Trafficked is a novel that everyone should read. Not only because it deals with an issue that’s unfortunately so prevalent, but because this book delves into aspects of Trafficking that so many people overlook.

When one thinks of Trafficking, one often thinks of girls being forced into prostitution.

Now while that certainly is a massive and horrendous part of it(and one that still doesn’t get enough coverage, much less have anything done about it), this novel focuses more on events that often precede it - girls being tricked into forced labour, and subjected to long, hard and thankless working hours.

The worst part of this?

Because most of them are illegals (and underage to boot), they have no way of getting any help;  running the risk of being jailed because they’re in a foreign country.

Kim Purcell’s character, Hannah is pretty remarkable. She’s wonderfully drawn out – curious, hopeful, courageous and strong in a quiet and reverberating way.

Although she’s generally cautious, her innate sense of goodness (and naivety) often lead her to ignoring those uncomfortable twinges she gets about certain people, resulting in her finding herself in daunting and perilous situations.

As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel the sense of hopelessness and helplessness that she felt when things were at their worst. I found myself wanting to comfort her, wishing I could help her and hoping against hope that she’d use that inner strength to find some way out.

But that’s not all.

One of the most important and most gut-wrenching aspects of this novel is the interactions between Lillian and Hannah.

As a woman, I believe that we should support one another, not break each other down, and experiencing Hannah’s agony at Lillian’s increasingly cold, callous and vicious hand, filled me with a huge amount of despair and desolation.

Not only that, but I was left with a feeling of helpless rage.

Rage towards a woman that was cruel to a lost, lonely teen who only wanted the best for her family. 

Rage because this woman is a mother whose instinct should be to nurture and protect, not to pass on the role of mother to a young girl who’s just lost her parents.

… And rage because this woman chose the vanity of her ego and paranoia over the word of vulnerable teen who was cast into the role of outsider from the moment she arrived.

I know.  It certainly doesn’t make for easy reading, does it?

It’s on that note that I have to add that I think it’s a great testimony to an author when a reader can feel so much fury towards a despicable character – for me, it speaks of a character that’s been created by an author finely attuned to the physical and emotional nuances and external forces that can affect the protagonists – in this case Hannah – in a novel.   

And in this novel, there are plenty of these moments. 

Trafficked is a beautifully written, slow, but insidious burn that will keep you edge - pushing and pulling you towards a devastating climax and an ending that will haunt you for days afterwards.

It’s a novel that gives no easy answers, has no easy resolutions and one that everyone interested and invested in the fight for human rights, should read.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 YA Books I’m looking forward to reading this year

What I love most about January (besides the first-month-of-the-year hopeful vibes it brings) is that it gives me the opportunity to compile books-to-look-forward-to lists. 

I’ve been stalking a slew of lists and publisher websites and I’ve stumbled across some forthcoming reads that have me salivating. 

Some you may have already seen, some not; but for me, that’s the beauty of making and stumbling across these posts. There’s always a book that’s waiting for you to: discover it, add it and then, count down the days until you can buy it.

So, in the spirit of sharing and squeeing over up and coming books of 2014, here’s my list of YA books I’m really excited about (There are obviously more, but I’m practising my newly acquired habit of restraint).

Thinking of doing an Adult fiction reads one too, but for now, these are the books that are making me go:
  



1. Banished by Liz de Jager

Date of publication: February 27th 2014
Publisher: Tor UK


Reason why I’m going gaga over this book: FAERIES.

Um, See my blog name? See mentions of Fae in this blurb? Need I say more? :)

I didn’t think so.  Check out the blurb below.  Also, it’s the first book in a trilogy, so definitely one to look forward to enjoying more of!

 
Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives.

And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in.

With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world.

Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Add to Goodreads

2. Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Date of publication: 8 July 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 

Reason for bookflailing all over the place: Knights, warrior, a gorgeous title and a feisty and street-smart heroine who scales walls and joins forces with an Assassin’s Guild?

Consider me sold!

I’ll be reading and reviewing a prequel to Midnight Thief - Poison Dance - shortly.


Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. 

But when the leader of the Assassin’s Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. 


She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down.

But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces.

And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

Add to Goodreads

3. Glimpse by Kendra Leighton

Publication date: June 19th 2014
Publisher: Much-in-Little


Reason why: Two words: The Highwayman. 

I’ve been waiting for ages for someone to write a book inspired by and based on this and it seems I’m finally getting my wish.

I'm obsessed with legends, poems, myths and folklore, so this definitely sounds up my alley.

Liz only wants to be normal.

Seven years ago Liz was in a car accident which killed her mother and left her with no memory of the first ten years of her life.

Since then nothing has felt quite right: on top of the perpetual nightmares, she keeps catching glimpses of things, things that can't really be there, that no-one else can see.

When she inherits the famous Highwayman Inn from her grandfather, and moves to live there with her dad, she is convinced it will be a fresh start: but if anything, life at the Inn is stranger than ever.

The sinister caretaker and his creepy son seem to be watching her constantly . . . A boy called Zachary keeps haunting her . . . And out of the pitch-black night, the Highwayman comes riding.

Inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem 'The Highwayman', Glimpse is a ghost story, a love story, and a story of overcoming trauma

Add to Goodreads

4. Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Publication date: 11 March 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin 

All the book squees because:  The beautiful title, the infusion of music, forest settings and all things magical has me dancing all the happy dances, because these are a few of my favourite things.

Also, myths and legends surrounding this music school? It makes me want to open and explore the world and its secrets. 


A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems. Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix.

But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real.

This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique.

Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate.

But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Add to Goodreads

5. The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy
Publication date: September 2nd 2014
Publisher: Entangled: Teen 

All the whys: This book had me at its lovely title. I adore books with wintery and snowy settings and this one sounds like it has all that and so much more.

Also, it’s hard not to get sucked into a description of a book where there are strange beings, lurking darkness and creatures in the woods.

Can’t believe this book is only being released in September though. Sigh.


An engrossing, complex, romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore or Maggie Stiefvater, set in a wholly unique world.

Salome Montgomery fears winter—the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all, the frozen pond she fell through as a child.

Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to "stay away."

For eleven years, she has avoided the winter woods, the pond, and the darkness that lurks nearby. But when failing health takes her grandparents to Arizona, she is left in charge of maintaining their estate. This includes the "special gifts" that must be left at the back of the property.
 


Salome discovers she’s a key player in a world she’s tried for years to avoid. At the center of this world is the strange and beautiful Nevin, who she finds trespassing on her family’s property.

Cursed with dark secrets and knowledge of the creatures in the woods, his interactions with Salome take her life in a new direction.

A direction where she'll have to decide between her longtime crush Colton, who could cure her fear of winter. Or Nevin who, along with an appointed bodyguard, Gareth, protects her from the darkness that swirls in the snowy backdrop. An evil that, given the chance, will kill her.

Add to Goodreads

6. Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Publication date: August 5th 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
 
All the book excite because:  Phantom of the Opera retelling set in a slaughterhouse? YES PLEASE!

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most.

When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik.

At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined.

She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it

Add to Goodreads

7. The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Publication date: April 10th 2014
Publisher: Razorbill 

Reason: All of the words below. Oh, and the gorgeous, gorgeous title and everything that it implies.

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom.

Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).


Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other.

So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.

Add to Goodreads

8. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Publication date:
April 22nd 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 

The why: I think the blurb of the book sums it up perfectly (highlighted below).  Also, this book kind of makes me want to reread Across the Barricades again. 

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city.

But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade.

She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.


Add to Goodreads


9. Nil by Lynne Matson
Publication date:
March 4th 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.


Why I can’t wait for it:  An island shrouded in mystery, unknown rules and the question of what happens after the 365 days (more specifically, how you die) is up, has me waiting not-so-patiently for this book.

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules.

She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love.

With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.

Add to Goodreads

10. Followers by Anna Davies
Publication date:
24th June 2014
Publisher: Point

All the chills:  Live-tweeting murders on campus? This is one book I can’t see myself putting down.

Also, I’ll probably read this with the light on. And, how creepy is the cover? The model looks like she could be the Bride of Chucky.

Seriously though, this sounds incredibly intriguing – I already want to know who’s responsible and why.


To tweet or not to tweet . . . what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school's production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department's "social media director" and starts tweeting half-hearted updates.

She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can't muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark . . . and a body's rotting in the theater" are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana's rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone's horror, the grisly tweets continue . . . and the body count starts to rise.

There's no other explanation; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it's up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions . . . or she becomes the next victim.

Add to Goodreads

And that’s it from me.

Have you made a list? What books are you most looking forward to? Feel free to leave a comment and share a link if you’ve done a similar post. I’d love to check yours out.