Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Guest post: Crossover genres in YA fiction

Today I’d like to welcome Melody, a fellow book blogger, to my blog today. In today’s post, Melody chats about a topic that I myself have always wanted to see more of: genre bending in young adult fiction.

The thing about fiction, young adult fiction in particular, is that the more it changes, grows and makes space for new books, the more experimental and exciting novels there are on offer.

And right now, for me, one of the most interesting trends in YA, are novels that play and experiment with different genres all within the span of a standalone, trilogy or book series.

Melody chats about and highlights a few of the best series that she defines as cross genre fiction.


A Guide to Cross-Genre YA Books

Gone are the days when every book fell within a specific category. Nowadays, authors write books that involve elements from two or three different genres.
This is especially true for YA authors. If you are a fan of young adult fiction, it’s time to embrace cross-genre books for all of their glory.

Below is a guide to cross-genre YA books and series that you can check out from your local library today. Enjoy!

1. Once Upon a Time Cyborgs – The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Who isn’t a fan of fairy tales and cyborgs? Now you can enjoy your favorite fairy tales in a new light. This book is also a great starting point for those want to try out steampunk literature.

You will enjoy the combination of new and old elements that Marissa Meyer combines into one, seamless series.

Synopsis of Cinder (the first book in The Lunar Chronicles):

In the distant future, Cinder, a young girl who is a gifted mechanic, is forced into a second-class lifestyle.

Her stepmother and step sister do not value her or her skills. However, she has to use her skills in order to help the prince win an intergalactic war.

2. Chick Flick Alien Invasion - The Host by Stephanie Meyer

You don’t have to choose between love and aliens any longer. Alien invasions aren’t just marketed towards boys. This alien involves some laughs, a few kisses, and a group of people coming together in a dystopian reality.

Synopsis of The Host:

Melanie Stryder is determined to get her brother to safety after aliens steal the bodies of their parents. While making their way toward their uncle’s secret stronghold, Melanie is captured.

Instead of fading quietly, she decides to fight against Wanderer, the alien who tries to take over her life. Wanderer refuses to leave quietly, and soon Melanie and Wanderer are fighting for their survival together.

3. Adventurous Fantasy – Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Do you have a young man in your family who claims that he doesn’t like reading? This book is the perfect mixture between adventure and fantasy, and the protagonist is just the type of rambunctious character that your son or nephew, or whoever really, will love.

It’s the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure spread out through a twelve book series.

Synopsis of The Ruins of Gorlan (the first book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series):

15-year-old Will is chosen from among a group of teenagers to become the next Ranger’s apprentice. While Will and his friends always found the Rangers to be mysterious and frightening.

Needless to say, Will is surprised when he finds out the Rangers have taken an oath to protect the entire kingdom, and they need his help to fight against a powerful, exiled Lord who is bent on vengeance.   

4. Fantasy inspired Post-Techno Dystopian fiction – The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling series is set in a dystopian world where everyone has fled modern technology. Fantasy and Dystopian lovers alike will identify with the protagonist’s struggle to live up to her royal blood.

Erika Johansen’s book will wet your appetite for a fantasy world and a dystopian society.

Synopsis of The Queen of the Tearling (the first book in The Queen of the Tearling series):

Kelsea Raleigh has been raised in secret. When she reaches the age of nineteen, she is called upon to take back her mother’s crown and her title as the Queen of the Tearling.

It is not an easy transition, however, as a crumbled kingdom and an evil queen stand in her path.

5. Steampunk Mystery - The Bookman Histories by Lavie Tidhar

The steampunk genre has stolen the hearts of the literary world for years now. Lavie Tidhar’s books are a perfect combination of steampunk and mystery.

This book is perfect for mystery lovers who want to enter the steampunk world or steampunk lovers who want a splash of mystery in their lives.

Synopsis of The Bookman (the first book in The Bookman Histories series):
A terrorist is taking lives by leaving bombs inside of books. The protagonist is the only one who can navigate a world of pirates and airships to discover the mystery behind the mass murders and bring the terrorist to his knees.

The question is: will the terrorist be found in time to save innocent lives?

6. The Paranormal and Fantasy Clash - The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Do you know the difference between Paranormal and Fantasy? It’s a fine line. Basically, most fantasy stories are set in other world or alternate realities.

Paranormal stories involve weird occurrences in a very real world.

As one of my friends says, if you can take away whatever makes the story “weird” and you are still in the real world, then you are probably reading a Paranormal novel…or a low fantasy.

So how can The Raven Cycle be a combination of both the Paranormal and Fantasy genres? The protagonist is planted firmly in one world, but she reaches across to another world.

Does that make sense? No? Well then you need to read this cross-genre book to understand this ingenious blend of genres.

Synopsis of The Raven Boys (the first book in The Raven Cycle):

Blue Sargent, whose mother is clairvoyant, gets into contact with a boy at the local private school. She is drawn into his quest for the truth.

The problem is that Blue knows that she was only able to contact her friend because he is able to die. She has been told that she will be the cause of her true love’s death, but now she has to find a way to stop fate.

7. Non-Steamy Alternate History Romance - The Selection series by Kierra Cass

The Selection series is an alternative for people who love alternate history romance novels, but who aren’t a fan of steampunk or romance novels.

It is a great take on modern reality competition and social class structures. Kiera Cass has created a smart alternate reality history story for girls and “cute romance” lovers of all ages that shows how a soon-to-be princess can do in a dystopian world without the help of engines, guns, or dragons.

Synopsis of The Selection (the first book in The Selection series):

In a future America ruled by a royal family, a group of girls are chosen from all over the kingdom, and from different castes, to vie for the prince’s hand in marriage. There are thrust into a battle that is part court intrigue and part reality television competition.

Musician America is forced into this competition and she fights against what is expected of her at first, until she realizes that this might be her one chance to make a better future for herself, her family, and her nation.

8. Fantastical Bildungsroman – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Have you ever wondered why J.K. Rowling’s series has stayed so popular throughout the years? This seven book series is the quintessential YA Bildungsroman series.

Now you can follow the sorry of a young man as he grows up, learns who he really is, and takes responsibility in the world – and defeats a powerful wizard with the help of his friends and a magic wand.

This low fantasy story perfectly combines the real world with the Wizard World. It is well worth reading through all seven books and witness the protagonist’s entire magical journey.

Synopsis of The Sorcerer’s Stone (the first book in the Harry Potter series): 

For the first twelve years of his life, Harry believed that he was unwanted and unloved. When he finds out that he is actually a wizard and he is actually somewhat of a celebrity in the Wizarding World, he can’t wait to leave his aunt and uncle behind to attend wizarding school.

However, everything isn’t as easy as it appears. Harry and his friends must stand against an evil wizard who is bent on taking over the world.

9. Mythology and romance – The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Do you love mythology? Do you love horses? If you said yes to either of these questions, then this is the book for you.

Maggie Stiefvater’s book is the perfect fiction novel for anyone who loves racing, horses, mythology, romance, or anything inbetween.

The plucky heroine is instantly likable and instantly recognizable. Feel free to let go and find your wild side in this book.

Synopsis of The Scorpio Races:

Puck Connolly has been riding for a long time, but she never expected to be able to participate in the Scorpio Races.

No female has ever ridden a sea horse in the yearly contest before. However, this deadly competition may be her only chance to find a better life.

10. Time Traveling Fantasy - A Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle

Don’t let the fact that this book is on the standardized school lists fool you. This classic fantasy series is actually one of the best pieces of YA time traveling literature that I have ever come across.

If you love time traveling literature, but you’re tired of non-magical historical stories, this is the book for you. There are so many alternate worlds and time lines in this series, your head will be spinning. Just make sure that you have your feet planted firmly on the ground before opening one of these books.

Synopsis of A Wrinkle in Time (the first book in the A Wrinkle in Time Quintet):

Meg Wallace’s father had been experimenting with a fifth dimension when he suddenly vanished. Now Meg, her younger brother, and her best friend have to go on an adventure through time and space to rescue him.

On the way, they met fantastical creatures and have to escape evil villains.

11. When Sci-Fi Fell in Love with Fantasy- Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi

Sci-Fi and fantasy lovers don’t have to fight any longer. This book is a masterpiece that meshes the sci-fi and fantasy world in a mixture of adventure, dystopian ideas, and, yes, romance.

Veronica Rossi’s series is a must read for anyone who loves both or either genre. Be warned, though, if you don’t love both genres, you may find yourself wanting to expand your reading list.

Synopsis of Under the Never Sky (the first book in the Under the Never Sky series):

Ari has lived her whole life in a protected world, safe within her room while she explored using holograms and other technology. She doesn’t believe that she can survive in the primal world outside.

Perry is a savage with the power of the Sight. These two characters are complete opposites, or so they think at first. They will have to work together to find what they are searching for.

12. A High Fantasy-Filled Dystopia – The Grisha series
Remember, high fantasy involves a story that is told on another world. These elements in a dystopian world create a future land filled with beautiful and dangerous magic.

The sugar on top that makes this book truly unique is that the inspiration of this fictional world is based in Russia.

If you pick up any book in The Grisha series, you will find a magical experience different than any YA you’ve ever read before.

Synopsis of Shadow and Bone (the first book in The Grisha series):

Orphan Alina Starkov has never been considered anything special, until she is plucked from the ranks of the royal cartographers and taken to Little Palace to live with the Grisha.

There, she learns that she is able to call on a strength and power that her world has never seen before. She is actually the Sun Summoner, the only person who has the ability to destroy the Fold and save Ravka.

Thanks to Melody for stopping by – you can check out her blog, The Golden Dragon’s Library, here.

What are some of your favourite genre crossover novels? Share your picks and recommendations below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book review & spotlight: Poison Princess and Arcana Rising by Kresley Cole

In today’s post, I’m featuring both a review and spotlight post. As part of the Arcana Rising celebration, I’ve recently been giving the opportunity to review Poison Princess, the first book in a Arcana chronicles by Kresley Cole.

I’m sure most of you have heard or read the books, but just in case you haven’t, Poison Princess is about a girl who has debilitating visions of an apocalyptic future and explores what happens when those visions come true.

Today, Arcana Rising, the fourth book in the series is out in the wild. I don’t want to give too much information about the book as I’ve just finished the first one, but have included a brief synopsis for you below (following my review of Poison Princess).

Source: Review copy from the publishers. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za 

Summary: Goodreads
Publication date: August 19th 2014
Publishers: Simon & Schuster

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Arcana Chronicles, post-apocalyptic tales filled with riveting action, the dark mysticism of Tarot cards, and breathtaking romance.

She could save the world-or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline "Evie" Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future-and they're still happening.

Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Derveaux. But she can't do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest.

She knows she can't totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers.

A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to re-enact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it's not always clear who is on which side...


Okay, so I'm going to start off by stating that I very nearly gave up on this book.

I'm glad I didn't though because despite the fact that I found characters problematic and thought that some of the storytelling was a bit too slow for my liking, the execution of the story's concept was one that was incredibly well done.

While the book does fall prey to the Special Snowflake/Chosen One syndrome trope, Poison Princess proved to specifically be interesting because of its unique concept.

Think characters representing and embodying the different types of tarot cards - all who are gearing up for a major battle following a huge apocalyptic event - and you'll have an inkling of just what you can expect in this book.

Instead of another run of the mill work of dystopian fiction, what we get is a cleverly plotted story that builds up slowly towards an interesting twist at the end. 

I have to add that ever since I've read books like The Poison Diaries and The Poison Diaries: Nightshade, I've become a little obsessed with botany used as a device in fiction, and the way it's used in this book, is definitely one of the biggest reasons I was so pulled in by this novel.

Evie, is by all accounts a rich, spoiled and weak-willed brat who constantly rejects the idea of having supernatural abilities (this self-denial trope in YA really needs to stop ya'll. It gets a little tired if you spend most of the novel trying to hide your "true self"), while Jack is an absolute jerk, whom I in all honesty, can't say I like very much.

Caveman mentality complex is not an attractive quality. I'm not impressed with the thought-line that one has to have that kind of mentality to be considered a bad boy (because it is possible to be one and still be respectful), but I do hope to see some better characterisation in the rest of the books.

Having said that, I don't think the characters are completely irredeemable and contrary to what I said, I do like the fact that they're not perfect and that they have a lot to learn about each other on their quest to find answers.

Ultimately, Poison Princess kept me glued to its pages and I'm definitely going to be checking out the next book in the series. 

About Arcana Rising:
Losses mount and deadly new threats converge in this next action-packed tale of the Arcana Chronicles by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole.

When the battle is done . . . 

The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind--but Circe strikes back.

The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . . 

With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter's reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her.

Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.

To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future--and her chilling past--will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter's ashes, stronger than ever before?

Purchase a copy of the book by clicking on the image below.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Firstly, a huge apology for my absence. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I know, but a number of factors have prevented me from getting around to updating - exhaustion being the primary reason for my silence. 
I hope to get around to blogging more this month, but in the meantime, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by posting up this short review of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, which, although not perfect, I quite enjoyed! 
Source: Review copy from the publishers. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za
Summary: Goodreads
Publication date: 31 July 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown UK  publishers

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.


WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead, although I’ve done my best to be as vague as possible without giving anything away

An enjoyable read that should be read for the nostalgia and not for the expectation of being a fully fleshed out story. I’ve seen a lot of criticism about this not being an actual book, which is rather ridiculous considering that this was originally written and adapted for stage.
To me, this book actually reads like a series of Throwback Thursday moments simply because of the fact that for most parts of the play, we explore scenarios set in the same landscape, but alternative universe in terms of time – and as such, we get to play witness to interactions with some of our old familiar favourites.

Of course, considering that this is the script of a play, a lot of the moments in the book often get lost in translation because we are only provided with snapshots of moments instead of fully developed and fleshed out scenes.

It’s enough to give us an overview of the characters and scenarios, but personally, it did leave me wanting more.
The best bits of the play-to-book script is the friendship that is explored between Scorpius and Albus (they're the most adorable duo ever) and the complex relationship that both of them have with their fathers (so many daddy issues yo).

To be frank, I’m not even sure why the relationship between the boys were made to be one that is simply a close friendship, considering all the subtext and UST (unresolved sexual tension).  In fact, I’ve seen many people describe this as the Scorbus (Albus and Scorpius) fan fiction they’ve dreamed of and I’m inclined to agree.

To echo what I’ve said to a friend who asked about Albus and Scorpius: the subtext is so non-subtext that this book could just as well have paired the two together from the onset.

In terms of plot, there were several moments that left me scratching my head and one huge moment that I was certainly not expecting (I’m still ruminating on this aspect even though it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve read the book. I also find it hard to believe that a certain character is capable of feeling any form of feeling that isn’t tied to murderous intent, but I guess that is what Jo was banking on, so well played, Jo. Well played).
However, despite the fact that I feel like so many things were left unanswered and unaddressed (which I’m mostly excusing because ya know, SCRIPT and not novel (as mentioned above),  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ended up being a fun and fantastical read and one whose play I'm definitely still interested in seeing.

Read it because it’s fun, but don’t expect epic character arc, development and intricate plots and sub-plots.