Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mini book review: The Archived

Welcome to the 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 edition, I’ll be featuring a review of Victoria Schwab’s The Archived – a YA paranormal mystery novel that I really enjoyed! 

About The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read.

The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. 

Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed.

And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption

Mini review

What an unexpectedly unique and wonderfully surprising read.

I admit, that while my bookish friends have been raving about and recommending this book to me for ages now – and despite my curiosity about it – I still found myself harbouring reservations.

For me it was a case of: “there’s no way a book with such a wholly unique concept” could actually be as good as it sounds.

(I’m sure many of you, like me, must be familiar with that feeling of being let down by a book that ended up being pale in comparison to what the synopsis promised.)

Luckily for me (and for those who recommended this book to me – ha!), I found myself thoroughly immersed in a magically-drawn world, richly tapered with threads of history and mystery, doorways between worlds, and bridges between the past and the present.

At the heart of this novel, is Mackenzie, a wonderfully fleshed out character; brave and tough when it comes to her Keeper duties, but vulnerable, uncertain and in many ways; forced to hide the part of herself that makes her the protector of the doorways between the living and the dead.

Being forced to juggle both life inside and outside of the Narrows, where she hunts and returns Histories to their rightful place, Victoria has managed to showcase a heroine who is wonderfully flawed, emotionally driven (Mac is still struggling to come to terms with her baby brother, Ben’s death) and incredibly independent.

What especially makes her such an interesting character is the fact that her unresolved grief often lends itself to the unbidden desires to find out more about the Histories that are shelved in the archive.  You can’t help but feel for her, while at the same time, you’ll also find yourself silently begging her not to cross the point of no return.

Of course, it’s not all angst and heaviness; the presence of Wes, charmingly disarming in his friendliness, made for some sweet and light comic relief.

He quickly wormed his way into my heart and with his gothy looks and eyeliner-wearing tendencies (aka the boy who is now known as guyliner for this very reason), he definitely made for one crush-worthy boy.

The best part of the novel though, is the interesting, but violent history of the hotel/apartment where Mac and her family live. 

Being curious by nature, Mac quickly finds herself at the centre of a mystery where a few people met a violent and bloody end, the reasons for their deaths somehow relating back to the murder of one girl.

With her being unable to resist the temptation to look for more answers, I soon found myself swept up into a tale of a whodunit, questioning everything and being suspicious of almost everyone. 

Point of the matter is that Victoria kept on the edge of my seat, searching for answers even while second-guessing myself all the while.

To add to this, I have to say that I really enjoyed the structure of this novel, something, which I know a few readers and book bloggers have had an issue with.

It does take a while to get into, the format switching between little flashbacks, written in the form of snippets of letters (addressed in a second person point of view – almost as if you as the reader, are the person she’s addressing – even though the recipient is clearly a male), and back to first person pov.

However, combined with Schwab’s wonderful turn of phrase and intricately plotted twists, it blends together seamlessly and converges into a paranormal mystery that’s magical, eerie and undeniably compelling.

In short, it’s a book that’s well-worth the read; I’m certainly looking forward to the sequel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blog tour: Spotlight on Songstone by Lena Goldfinch

As part of the Songstone blog tour, I’m delighted to be featuring Lena Goldfinch’s fantasy YA novel, Songstone on my blog today. 

It’s not every day that one comes across a book rooted in New Zealand based folklore, and as a blogger, there’s nothing better that I like discovering than books which focus on uncommonly employed myths and legends.

So, without further ado, here’s some more info on the book and Lena. Be sure to stop by on the previous and forthcoming posts for lots of goodies, fabulous posts and a huge, international giveaway! 

About Songstone
Kita can meld song into stone. In a world with no written word, storytelling—the ability to meld (or magically impress) song into stone—is greatly honored.

The village honors her master as their medicine man, but Kita knows he's secretly a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood.

She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it from him. Each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope.

His spells blind the villagers, so they can’t see him for what he really is.

Not that anyone would want to help her. She was found in the forest as a baby and would have died if a village girl hadn't brought her home.

But the villagers saw Kita's unusual coloring and decided she belonged to the mysterious tribe who lives in the forests of the volcano, a people feared for their mystical powers. So they fear her too.

Now seventeen, she can barely admit her deepest longing: to know who she really is and where she belongs.

Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He's come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village—a storyteller who'll be chosen at the great assembly.

Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom and she'll risk her life to take it.

A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.

Add Songstone to your Goodreads TBR pile.
Where you can find Songstone:
~ Amazon (Kindle)
~ Barnes & Noble (Nook)
~ Kobo
~ Smashwords
 
About Lena
Lena lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab.
 
She writes fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a healthy dose of "sigh-worthy" romance.

You can visit her online at www.lenagoldfinch.blogspot.com.

Where you can find her:
Website
Twitter 
Pinterest
Goodreads
Newsletter sign-up

For the rest of the tour schedule, click on the tour button below.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Author guest post: Diversity in YA fiction by Suzanne van Rooyen


It’s a huge pleasure to welcome South African YA author, Suzanne van Rooyen to my blog today.  

In light of her latest novel, Obscura Burning, dystopian novel with LGBT themes, Suzanne has kindly agreed to write a guest post on Diversity – or rather the lack thereof-  in YA fiction.

Let’s face it – there is a huge discrepancy in this genre, in that we see far too few black protagonists, far too few gay (and even less lesbian leads) and far too few characters that deviate from the standard fare that’s currently out there.

As such, discovering authors who feature protagonists that aren’t stereotypical and write about themes that deviate from the norm (not that there is anything wrong with that), is always a joy for me.

I know there’s been quite a number of posts on this topic, but considering that there’s still so little diversity in this genre, it’s one subject that I feel needs to remain on everyone’s radar and that more should be written on this as often as possible.

As always, before we lead into Suzanne’s post, here’s some info on her latest book, Obscura Burning.



About Obscura Burning: 
The world's going to end in fire...and it's all Kyle's fault.

Kyle Wolfe's world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle's two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred.

A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira.

That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle's friends aren't all that dead anymore.

Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. 

In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it's Shira who's alive...and now they're friends with benefits.

Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he's not the only one dying. The world is dying with him.

He's pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents' marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world..

Head on over to Goodreads to add Obscura Burning to your TBR pile.

Over to Suzanne: 


Diversity in YA fiction

Disclaimer: This guest post originally appeared on Loup Dargent as "QUILTBAG Protagonists in SF/F YA literature and was reposted on YAtopia, March 16, 2013.

There is a lack of diversity in young adult fiction especially when it comes to QUILTBAG characters having the starring role in genre fiction. For those unsure, QUILTBAG stands for queer, unisex, intersex, lesbian, trans, bi, asexual and gay - a handy acronym to encompass various sexualities.

The only one missing is the fairly new, pansexual, denoting a lack of preference or an all inclusive sexual preference.

Science fiction and fantasy, as both a literary and movie/TV genre, has been dominated by straight white males for decades.

Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his roles from Terminator to Total Recall. Consider Christian Bale and Tom Cruise in their leading manly-man roles in science fiction films like Equilibrium, Minority Report, Batman and soon to be released Oblivion.

Given that a good number of these films are based on the works by literary greats like Philip K Dick, Asimov and others, this straight white male syndrome seems prevalent in the genre, and is sadly true for YA fiction as well.

Let’s look at recent YA smashhits: Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. J.K Rowling’s series featured a straight white male protagonist, Stephenie Meyer’s series featured a straight white leading couple (I’ll get to Jacob in a minute) and Suzanne Collins’s dystopian series featured a straight white love triangle.


Only after the success of Harry Potter, both as a novel series and as a movie franchise, did it surface that Rowling had always thought of Dumbledore as gay, not that this was ever made apparent in either the novels or the movies.

Why not?

There are numerous articles about Twilight and possible racism floating around the net.

Regardless of how you interpret the fact that Native Americans were the ‘animals’ in the story, what surprised me even more than a centuries old vampire willingly repeating high school, was the lack of sexual fluidity so apparent in vampire characters from the works of progenitors like Anne Rice.

Even the True Blood vampires explore same sex partnerships. But Twilight didn’t feature a single gay main character. And neither does another super popular vampire series: The Vampire Diaries. Meet Damon and Stefan Salvatore - white and straight despite both being almost two hundred years old, who confound just about every social more.

Meet Elena Gilbert and her brother - straight and white. Meet the sidekicks Caroline, Matt, and Tyler - straight and white. Bonnie is the only smudge of colour on the cast and she’s a witch (why is no one screaming racial stereotypes?). There is one gay character but his appearance is fleeting and has little bearing on the mostly white, all straight main cast.

And now The Hunger Games. There was an uproar at the time of casting for the movie adaptation of the book when they cast Amandla Stenberg as Rue. Why is Rue black - fans protested. Why not?

Is every character in a YA book white and straight until proven otherwise?

Another character in The Hunger Games, played by Lenny Kravitz in the film, is referred to as ‘the gay guy.’ Kravitz is quoted to having said he didn’t want to play Cinna ‘too gay.’ In the novel, his sexuality is never expressly stated. He’s simply a stylist and designer, so once again stereotyping runs rampant.

YA protagonists are only gay, lesbian, bi or transgender when it’s a contemporary issue book like The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring the fabulous Patrick. I can’t name a single best-selling SF/F YA title featuring a gay, lesbian or bi - never mind transgendered - protagonist.

Can you?

I’ve never deliberately gone out of my way to write a QUILTBAG character, that’s just who my characters tend to end up being.

My most recent YA book, Obscura Burning, is a hybrid contemporary issue (my character’s sexuality is the least of his issues!) come science fiction novel and features a white bisexual male protagonist who has relationships with a Native American girl and a Latino guy.

When I submitted this novel to agents they liked it but were nervous about the content. Thankfully, an indie press wasn’t afraid of taking on my novel and all its ‘questionable’ content. This is the beauty of the indie industry: they’re not afraid to take on books that might be controversial.

Even in books like Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince where varying sexualities are presented as not only acceptable but ordinary, the main character remained straight. This is exceedingly frustrating. 


Why can’t the main characters in YA science fiction and fantasy be gay? There’s no reason why QUILTBAG individuals can’t be heroes. Just look at pansexual Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood fame, played by the openly gay and awesome John Barrowman. This is the type of heroic character I want to see in YA SF/F.

Given the slew of dystopian novels set in varying futures, I find it impossible to understand why so few if any of those main characters aren’t at least bi-curious.

If we’re fated to a bleak future of robot wars, tyrannical governments and zombie apocalypses, why can’t we at least love whomever we choose and be comfortable with our sexuality?

Thanks for stopping by Suzanne!
 

More about Suzanne:
Suzanne is a freelance writer and author from South Africa.

She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring.
 

Suzanne is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia) and has had several short stories published by Golden Visions Magazine, Space and Time and Niteblade.

Her non-fiction articles on travel, music and other topics can be found scattered throughout the Internet.
 

Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters.

When not writing you can find her teaching dance to ninth graders or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.

Where you can find her:

Goodreads
Facebook
Website
Twitter

 
What are your thoughts on diversity in YA? What would you like to see more of? Feel free to share your thoughts below. :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cover reveal: When the World Was Flat (and We Were in Love) by Ingrid Jonach

I’m super excited about today’s cover reveal.

Ok, ok – so I’m always  excited about cover reveals, but this one in particular, because, not only will I be part of the blog tour (coming up in September) for this, but because I’m a huge sucker for books with beautiful titles.

I mean, how gorgeous is When the World Was Flat (and We Were in Love), the title of Ingrid Jonach’s YA sci-fi romance novel? I swear, there are some books you just know you’re going to read based on the title alone.

For me, Ingrid’s book is that book. I will, however, go on to add that once I read the synopsis, I was completely and irrevocably sold on the premise of the novel too. I can’t wait to read this book.

As for the cover itself, I think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. I adore the heart-shaped key and the red ribbon which it’s attached to and can’t wait to see how it ties in with the novel.

Have a look below. Book summary and more info about Ingrid follows beneath the cover reveal.


About the book:
Looking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.

But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.

When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself

Add When the World Was Flat (and We Were in Love) to your TBR pile. 

About Ingrid
 
Ingrid Jonach writes books for children and young adults, including the chapter books The Frank Frankie and Frankie goes to France published by Pan Macmillan, and When the World was Flat (and we were in love) published by Strange Chemistry.

Since graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (Hons) in 2005, Ingrid has worked as a journalist and in public relations, as well as for the Australian Government.

Ingrid loves to promote reading and writing, and has been a guest speaker at a number of schools and literary festivals across Australia, where she lives with her husband Craig and their pug dog Mooshi.

Despite her best efforts, neither Craig nor Mooshi read fiction.

For more information visit www.ingridjonach.com.

Where you can find Ingrid:

Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book spotlight, excerpt & giveaway: Rush by Eve Silver


Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen

Summary from Goodreads:

So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos.

In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures.

There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out.

Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet.

She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Available from:
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png  photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg   photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg


***Excerpt***

There’s a flash of light, blindingly bright. Colored haloes obscure my vision. They dance and flicker and then disappear, leaving only a rectangle of light boxed in by the dark doorframe.

I see then that the door’s gone and in front of me are people. No…they aren’t people. They have limbs, hair, faces, but they aren’t human. After the first glance, they don’t look even remotely human. They’re pure, painful white, so bright they throw off a glare.

They look like they’ve been dipped in glass, smooth and polished, but fluid. And their eyes…they’re a silvery color, like the mercury in the antique thermometer that my mom used to have at the side of the front porch.

When I was ten, I knocked that thermometer off with my wooden kendo sword, shattering the glass. The little blobs of mercury went all over the porch. I was a kid. I didn’t know better. I touched them, prodding the little balls until they joined the bigger blob.

My mom swooped down on me and snatched me away, telling me it was poison. It could kill me.

I stare at the things in front of me: the Drau. I can’t look away.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember Jackson talking about Medusa.

Don’t look at their eyes.

Their mercury eyes.

They’re poison.

They will kill me.

Copyright © 2013. Eve Silver. All Rights Reserved.


About the Author
Eve Silver lives with her gamer husband and sons, sometimes in Canada, but often in worlds she dreams up.

She loves kayaking and sunshine, dogs and desserts, and books, lots and lots of books. Watch for the first book in Eve’s new teen series, THE GAME: RUSH, coming from Katherine Tegen Books, June 2013.

She also writes books for adults.


Author Links:
     

***GIVEAWAY***
Signed copy of Rush, US and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hosted by:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Author guest post: The New Adult fiction debate by Ingrid Seymour

Today I’d like to welcome Ingrid Seymour, author of New Adult fiction novel, The Guys are Props Club, to my blog.

Having only recently gotten into the NA genre, I’ve been quite fascinated with the whole debate around it. That this emerging genre should even have been categorised is without a doubt, one of the biggest points that have been getting people talking; many being strangely (and vehemently) against the very idea of this being a genre.

With me being a relative newbie to New Adult fiction, I’ve since  become quite keen on featuring authors of this genre and I’m very thankful and happy that Ingrid has so kindly agreed to write a guest post on a topic that, although may have been dissected through time and time again, is still very relevant.

For me, topics on YA and New Adult fiction have always and will always be important to be, because these two categories (with the latter only recently having joined the fold) seem to be the ones that are getting the most censure from people both inside and outside of the book industry.

It should be noted that both NA and YA are genres that have been taking the world by storm and show no signs of stopping, so I suppose one should hardly be surprised at the many varied, often interesting and sometimes downright infuriating posts about these fiction categories as a whole.

Having developed a passion for YA over the years, a passion which is busy extending itself to NA as well, it’s only a pleasure for me to extend the opportunity for authors to guest post about a subject that I know many people are equally enthusiastic about.

But, before I hand over the reins to Ingrid, here’s some more information about her latest novel, The Guys are Props Club.

About The Guys are Props Club
During her senior year in high school, Maddie Burch promised herself not to ever fall for a cute guy – or any guy – again.

Cute guys are players and not to be trusted, a fact she learned the hard way when her first boyfriend ran her heart through a paper shredder.

Two years later, her promise is still intact, and she’s determined to make it through college without falling victim to another creep. She has her job, school and The Guys Are Props Club to keep her mind and hormones in check.

The club was founded by Jessica, Maddie’s best friend. It is a sisterhood of girls who have fallen prey to heartless jerks and who have vowed to turn the tables.

Once a semester, Jessica requires members to “do onto others as they’ve done unto you.” Setting the example, Jessica’s next play is Sebastian Capello, a theater major with heartthrob looks and a flair for Latin dance, whose heart she plans to break the way hers was once broken.

What the friends don’t know is that Sebastian is different. Despite his perfect looks and popularity, he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t play games to get his way. Instead, he keeps it real and goes after what he wants with honest intentions.

And what he wants is not a bombshell like Jessica, but a down-to-earth girl like Maddie – even if it causes a riff in the girl’s friendship. Even if it means getting Maddie to break her personal vow.

*** Due to language and sexual situations this book is recommended for ages 17 and older.

Add this book to your TBR pile on Goodreads.

Over to Ingrid:

What's all the big fuss about New Adult fiction?

The emergence of the “New Adult” genre didn’t occur without some controversy. In the beginning, and even now, many people out there didn’t think that New Adult deserved a categorization of its own. Say what?! Yes, it’s true. Some folks out there actually get on a soap box about this.

To back up their argument, they state that adult fiction already deals with all the issues the New Adult genre deals with, that for years there have been books about 20-somethings, and we never saw the need to call them anything different.

Moreover, some argue that the new name is simply a marketing ploy, a means of developing a better way to target college students whose purchasing power is potentially greater than that of teenagers.

Regardless of what anyone says (opponents can argue until kingdom come—it really makes no difference) , New Adult has become a force to be reckoned with.

 Agents and publishers realized this a while back and are done discussing and trying to decide whether or not a new category is appropriate.

On the contrary, they have joined the fray and are now acquiring titles, so they can give readers what they want and—of course—so they can make a profit.

As a reader and an author of both Young Adult and New Adult fiction, this debate is only noise to me. All I know is that I’m having a blast reading and writing in the genre. For me, as for many, it all started a while back when I began reading Young Adult fiction.

I fell in love with the genre immediately (Thank you J.K. Rowling!) The intensity of feeling, the adventure, the discovery, they all captured my imagination and made me genuinely happy—and they still do.

Young Adult books are fantastic in their own right, but if you think about the birth of New Adult, it was simply a natural progression. It just had to happen.

Why, you ask?

Well, teenagers grow up. And although they still love reading Young Adult (and many always will,) their lives inevitably change, and so do their fears, needs, and desires.

From one day to the next, they’re thrown out of their mother’s bosoms and are expected to fend for themselves out in the real, mean world.

And many are scared to the bone. So why not commiserate with a Camryn from The Edge of Never, Avery from Wait for You, or Maddie from The Guys Are Props Club?

Why not hang out with those characters who are going through some of the same trials and worries? Why not find some comfort and companionship within the pages of something familiar, namely a book?

Though, in truth, it isn’t only 20-somethings who are finding what they want between those pages. Not-so-new Adults are too, because who doesn’t want to reminisce about their college years, about their first love, the first time they had sex?

Who wouldn’t want to relieve that?
 
Of course, if this explanations don’t suffice, we could always think about all those Young Adults books in which the author gets rid of the parents in a very awkward, nonsensical way.

Those books where you’re left wondering “what sensible parents would let their kids do that?” Maybe authors just got tired of those little troublesome parents and decided to write New Adult so they could bump them off.
 

Kidding aside, whether New Adult is here to stay as a genre, only time will tell. In the meantime, don’t sweat it.

Keep calm and read more New Adult! 

About Ingrid:
Ingrid Seymour loves, loves, loves to write. Her favorite genres are Young Adult and New Adult. 

The idea for her debut novel "The Guys Are Props Club" assaulted her one day, and she just had to commit it to paper.

She wrote it in record time and had incredible fun doing it. Now, she's enjoying hearing from her readers.

It's a dream come true.

Find her at www.IngridSeymour.com and share your thoughts!

Where you can find Ingrid:
Her website
Goodreads
Twitter
Facebook

Thanks for stopping by Ingrid!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book review: Deadlands

Side note: A shortened version of this review originally appears on the women24 website, which you can find here.

Update: This is a repost, because I just realised that I actually haven't featured the next book in the series after all this time - which is what will appear next on my blog.

Women24.com is a South African women's lifestyle website where I work as an online journo and where you can check out a host of other book reviews that we feature regularly... for those curious, I'll do a more in-depth post about what it is I do for a living very soon.
 

Deadlands
Young Adult satirical zombie fiction has a new home. And it's right here in South Africa. And yes, you should get a copy.

Deadlands by Lily Herne (Penguin Books SA)

17-year old Lele and her brother are stuck and living with her parents in the city enclave.

It's one of the few safe places following both the war and the appearance of the Zombie menace that has been ravaging the Deadlands (the area designated as unsafe and outside of the enclave) ever since.

Beneath the so-called veneer of safety, Lele can't help but notice that there's something sinister about the Guardians who keep a strict lockdown on the people who live within the enclave. 

Stuck in a school run by the Ressurrectionists, a fanatical cult who worship the Guardians, Lele doesn't seem to have a way of escaping…

… At least not until, by some fluke (or is it luck?), she ends up being one of five aspiring teens that end up being selected by the Guardians in a staged human Lottery (which takes place every year).  No one knows why the Guardians want these teenagers so badly or what they do with them, but Lele is certainly about to find out.

My thoughts:
As a huge fan of the Young Adult fiction genre, I've always wondered why our fabulous South African authors don't plug into a genre that is so hugely popular around the world right now.

Thankfully, my book prayers were answered and mother-daughter duo, writing under the author name of Lily Herne, have both written a phenomenal new offering for lovers of Zombie fiction; adding a uniquely South African twist that is sure to make this book a hit with everyone.

Set in post-apocalyptic Cape Town (as I'm from Cape Town), this book is remarkably easy to relate to.

One of the most surprising things about the novel, is that in spite of it having a zombie focus, it was a rather light-hearted read with plenty of amusing moments in between.  And as someone who isn't a big fan of gore, this ended up being quite a plus for me.

What makes this novel really unique though, is the clever and no-holds barred, satirical barbs about South Africa's past and current political infrastructure scattered throughout the book. 

To international readers, you don't necessarily have to have an understanding about South Africa's history, but if you do, then you, like me, will find the satire very, very clever.

With references to the very controversial Julius Malema (Lele's forced to go to a school called Malema high -) and political party, ANC (Lele joins the ANZ (Anti-Zombians) movement - an ode to the ANC before it became what it is today), it becomes obvious that there are two opposing sectors that will no doubt be heading for battle.

On the one hand, you have the Guardians and the Ressurrectionists who believe that they are doing the best for the people and giving the people what they "need" - just as long as people don't rebel and question them (Sounds like the ANC today doesn't it?) .

On the other hand, you have the ANZ movement - a resistance movement that are fighting for the people's rights and are forced to use violence as a method of trying to get their message across.

In a way, there is an underlying sense that almost feels as if you have the same faction fighting against itself and all it used to stand for. Again, this relates back to just why I think adults will probably also enjoy reading this.

The writing of the novel, for the most part, flowed quite seamlessly.

One thing I have to address, is the criticism that chapters are structured in such a way that it employs that age-old tactic of ending off with a line that forces you to continue on to the next page.

People seem to have a problem with this, and while I, agree with them in terms of some of these lines being relatively cheesy, I think it's an effective strategy to keep the reader reading.  It certainly kept me reading and wanting to find out what would happen next.

What did bother me though was the use of repeated vocabulary. I understand that words often do get repeated, but for me, it does become bothersome when I actually start noticing it.
 
Still, I thought the characters were incredibly strong, and Lele in particular, has a can-do, and don't-need-a-boy-to-take-care-of-my-problems kind of attitude that is incredibly refreshing to behold in the Young Adult genre spectrum.  

The secondary characters and the introduction of the Mall Rats (I can't reveal more without spoiling for you), gave this novel an added kick in what really transformed itself into not just a zombie novel, but an action-packed zombie novel filled with a lot of adventurous moments.

There's also a potential love-triangle, which, although wasn't a major focus, gives us an idea that we might just get to read more about it in a possible sequel.

For all of the action though, there were and are still a lot of questions that I would have liked to have seen answered. For example, we know that there was a war, and that there was a zombie plague, but there's no explanation as to why the war took place, where the zombies came from and how they were formed from the start.

But, in spite of these minor plot holes, I think that this is a great start in a genre that more South African authors should look into. And as a reader who certainly never use to enjoy zombie fiction, I myself was quite taken aback by just how much I enjoyed it.