Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book talk (Book worlds we’d love to visit) and HOSAS giveaway winners

So a huge, huge thank you to everyone who entered the House of Sand and Secrets Giveaway.  I must say I wasn’t expecting the lovely responses to the giveaway, but I really enjoyed reading every single one of them.

With the launch of the book today (Happy Book Birthday Cat), what better way than to celebrate by announcing the winners of the giveaway today?

Also, because there can only be two winners, I thought I’d give everyone a shout out by sharing everyone’s responses in this post (Ha, and no, I’m definitely not surprised that Hogwarts made it onto this list).

So, without further ado, here are your responses. Winner details follow below:

Alex:
The realm I'd love to visit would have to be the Discworld and Ankh Morpork especially. A tete-a-tete with the patrician, Rincewind and Sam Vimes would probably be the highlights of such a visit. be no difference.

Another Librarian:


I would like to visit Middle Earth specifically a fact-finding mission to Mordor to determine if the regime change was legal and justified (I would also really like to find out if Orcs were in fact irredeemably evil or if they just got a bad rep as we only read about the warriors of their culture)

Bookaliciouspam

I'd like to live in Inkheart for a day.

DKoren

I think I'd really love to go to Pern and ride a dragon.

Heather@ The Flyleaf Review


I would love to visit Laini Taylor's Eretz and check out all those chimera AND angels :)

Kara Seal

I'd love to spend a day at Hogwarts, though I don't think I'd ever want to come back to reality! Pelimburg would be cool too...I want to ride in a carriage pulled by unis and drink 'ink tea!

Anica

So because I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan I would love to go to the Discworld and have tea Granny Weatherwax.

Dave

I'd have to say that a visit to Matthew Swift's London would be awesome - Kate Griffin did such an amazing job in 'A Madness of Angels' and 'The Midnight Mayor' that I seriously want to go there and experience her brand of Urban Magic. :-)

Dirk

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in MallenIve, even if it's just for a day. Of course, you'd have to forgive me if I tend to buzz around the lesser parts of town, all the excitement tends to be there.

Mels_Anie

I would happily spend some time in Le Guin's Hain Universe.

Christiney

Haha mine is either Hogwarts (yes, I think this is a given for almost everyone) or the Graceling realm! I reread her books and I want to visit it soooo badly

Shari


I'd like to visit the world of Harry Potter...does everyone say that? lol :)

Monique

For me it's quite a tie between the wizarding world in Harry Potter, Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia, and Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings.

Helen

"It would have to be the alternative medieval world of T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Or perhaps Philip Pullman's version of Oxford in His Dark Materials."

And now, time for the giveaway winners:

Congratulations to: Dave and ChristineY who have each won yourselves an e-copy. You’ll be contacted shortly and will be given 48 hours to respond. Failure to do so, will result in new winners being drawn.

For those who haven’t won – don’t worry, I’ve got a new giveaway coming up soon. This time it will be for an gritty and edgy contemporary YA novel that explores a topic that you don’t often see explored in this genre.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cover reveal & giveaway: House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen

Today I have the awesome honour of revealing the cover of the book that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out it was a sequel to my favourite South African fantasy novel, When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen (who might I add, is one of the most awesome authors I’ve ever known – both online and in real life)

Most of you should have read WTSIRR by now, but just in case you haven’t you can check out my review of the book to find out what it’s all about.

Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR too!

And while you’re at it, you should definitely go out and grab yourself a copy, because in today’s cover reveal post, I, with special thanks to Cat and Brianna (the cover designer for House of Sand and Secrets) are also giving you the chance to win 1 of 2 e=book copies of HOSAS.

And I would highly recommend that you do read When the Sea is Rising Red first.

So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, are you ready to check out the cover of House of Sand and Secrets?

Check it out below. More information about the book and giveaway details will follow thereafter.


I don’t know about you, but I think it’s one of the most striking covers I’ve seen this year. I love the contrasting colours, the claw … and well, pretty much everything about it really.

Also, how refreshing is it from the standard pretty, thin (and mostly white) girl we so often see on covers?

About House of Sand and Secrets

"Cat Hellisen's fantasy novel House of Sand and Secrets follows the path of Felicita Pelimberg, the hero of When the Sea is Rising Red (FSG), when she discovers that sometimes, playing to lose is the only way to survive the game of Houses.

Trapped in a hasty marriage to lower-caste Jannik and trying to make the best of their exile, Felicita is immersed in the machinations of the powerful ruling families. MallenIve is worlds apart from Felicita’s native Pelimburg, and her family name and standing will not help her here.

Haunted by her past and those who died because of her, she attempts to regain her status as the scion of a once-great House, while confronting her true feelings for her distant husband.

If MallenIve’s leaders have their way, Jannik will soon have no more rights than an animal, and a union that once seemed to offer a solution to Felicita’s problems is now a dangerous liability.

Felicita’s feelings are conflicted and it is all too easy to fall into the prejudiced mindset of the higher castes … until faceless corpses begin turning up on the rubbish tips, and Felicita might be the only hope Jannik and his people have."

Add it to your TBR pile
. 

More about Cat
Cat Hellisen is an author of fantasy for adults and young adults. Born in 1977 in Cape Town, South Africa, she has also lived in Johannesburg, Knysna, and Nottingham.

She originally studied graphic design at Technikon Witwatersrand, before realising that she had no interest at all in the world of advertising.

She began writing seriously at age twenty-five but it was not until 2010 that she sold her first full-length novel, When the Sea is Rising Red.

Her children’s book, Beastkeeper, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is due out 2014
.
You can also find her on:
Twitter
Facebook
Website
Goodreads

And now – giveaway time!
To celebrate the forthcoming release (the book will be available from Wednesday, 23 October), you can win 1 of 2 e-book copies of HOSAS. To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which book world you’d like to visit for day, along with a means to contact you.

Giveaway is open internationally and ends on Wednesday, 23 October.

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed

Monday, October 14, 2013

Author interview: Elena Perez

Today I’d like to welcome Elena Perez, author of the YA novel, The Art of Disappearing, to my blog today. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and compile a Q & A, so I’m super thrilled to have Elena stop by on my blog.

In this interview, I chat to Elena about issues such as identity in YA (Her book, The Art of Disappearing, is very much centred around this theme), ask for an introduction to some of the characters featured in her as well as sharing a sneak peek from the book.

But, before we kick off, here’s some more information about the book (How awesome is the cover by the way?). 


About The Art of Disappearing
Delia can see the future . . . but can she change it?

All Delia wants is to be popular. She has the perfect plan: join the cheerleading squad with her best friend, Ava, and rule the school from the coolest table in the cafeteria.

But everything changes the day she watches a boy die—before it actually happens.

After dreaming about a classmate’s demise, she’s shocked when she witnesses his last breath—just like she dreamt it.

Ava insists Delia stop acting so strange, but Delia worries her abilities are beyond her control.

Torn between who she is and who she wants to be, Delia wishes she could simply disappear.
 
She doesn’t get her wish, but when someone close to her vanishes, Delia must use her gift to solve the mystery, before it’s too late.

Add The Art of Disappearing to your Goodreads TBR pile.


Q & A with Elena
Q: The Art of Disappearing is about a young girl who finds herself struggling to find her identity.

What do you think it is about this theme that makes it so relatable amongst readers, particularly the YA audience?

 
Well, it’s something we all go through in varying degrees. And it becomes excruciatingly important during those years when we first begin to really manage our own time. Initially our parents are shuffling us from here to there, we’re taking the bus to school and back, it’s all kind of programmed for us.

But then, suddenly, we’re old enough to start choosing where we go, who we spend our time with.

We’re making all of these decisions that might seem small, but they ultimately add up to votes for who we’re choosing to be. That’s why it can be such a nightmare to chose between one activity or another, one friend or another. It really does have huge repercussions.

Q: I’m always interested in hearing about how the character and the character’s voice came to the author. Can you tell us a little bit about the moment Delia first introduced herself to you?

The minute Delia came to me, I knew she was a girl on the cusp, on the edge of being edgy. It was like there was potential within her to be something more than she needed, but the spark hadn’t arrived yet.

I knew that spark would occur the moment the novel began and that the rest of the novel would involve her coping with that disruption, navigating a new sense of self.

Q:  It goes without saying that characters who battle with finding themselves often go through a tremendous amount of discomfort during their transition.

Could you perhaps give us a little insight into some of Delia’s most difficult moments?

The story has its fair share of tragic and chilling moments for Delia, but those that were ultimately the most difficult were rooted in betrayal.

I think we all begin to understand at an early age, unfortunately, that you can’t get through life pain-free. But when the source of that pain is someone you love and trust… that’s a much deeper level of hurt.

That’s the kind of experience Delia has with her best friend Ava. Their lives have suddenly diverged and neither of them know how to handle it so it gets really messy. And then it happens again later in the story, on a much bigger scale.

Both really uncomfortable moments for Delia, but they are also – as uncomfortable moments tend to be - enlightening.

Q: I believe that supporting characters are just as important to the story as the main protagonists are.

What do you think makes a great sidekick and can you introduce us to some of the other characters we’ll meet in The Art of Disappearing?


The best people that we align ourselves with offer trust, so we can feel comfortable enough to share who we really are.

But they also challenge us, using their unique point of view and the rare perspective they get from being so close in order to support us as we become who we really want to be.

In the beginning of The Art of Disappearing, Delia doesn’t quite understand who she is, or who she wants to be. And when she begins to figure it out, she discovers that she can’t trust her friends like she thought she could.

She’s forced to find it elsewhere, make other connections.

That’s where Zach comes in, Delia’s cousin. He grew up on the west coast with Delia’s aunt – a frazzled version of Delia’s mom – and is far more independent than Delia. When he comes to visit, they get to bond over their crazy family, but he also brings a new perspective with him that instantly expands Delia’s world.

In a lot of ways he provides Delia with the accessories for her new identity – music, fashion, attitude.

Delia also connects with another classmate named Regina – however unwilling – after she is banished from her core circle of friends. It’s not a perfect match; Delia’s hardly comfortable with Regina’s sarcasm and frank bitterness.

But what’s interesting about Regina is that she’s direct in a way that Ava (Delia’s best friend) hasn’t been. She doesn’t leave Delia guessing about her feelings and that’s something Delia can appreciate at a time when everything else is so unclear.

Q: Love triangles in contemporary YA: yay or nay?

There’s no cure for love triangles in real life, so I don’t imagine they’ll stop showing up in YA any time soon.

The challenge is bringing a new approach to the table. And there are a ton of great writers writing now, so hopefully something will bubble up soon that scratches the itch for love triangles in a way that surprises us all.

Q: What themes would you like to see more explored in the YA genre?


After such a long stretch of magic, vampires and other paranormal, there’s a big push for realistic fiction right now. I’m excited about that because it opens the door to explore our current world – which is kind of crazy and weird in its own right. 

I’d like to see something that meaningfully and emotionally explores the rapid-fire change around us. I don’t mean a book that does a good job of including texting or Facebook in the narrative. Something further out there. If I knew what it was, I’d be working on it. ;)

Q: What song do you think describes The Art of Disappearing best? (Please feel free to elaborate on the music that were inspiring to you during your writing process)

I absolutely count on music as a source of inspiration for my writing. It’s huge for me. And the same is true for Delia. In The Art of Disappearing, Delia discovers a band that totally inspires her.

It’s a fictional band, The Angrists, but their song served as a source of inspiration for me as I wrote.

Another thing that might not be really evident is that The Art of Disappearing plays out in the 90’s.

I didn’t write it as a period piece, but I really wanted to explore the way music used to be discovered – you’d see an obscure t-shirt of a band and could go days or weeks or months before you actually heard the band. Agh!

So different than now.  So I listened to The Cure’s Disintegration a lot while writing this. It was released in ’89 and, for me, the songs on this album are like a time machine right to the early 90’s.

Q: What’s the best part of being a writer and what’s the hardest part?

The best part is the experience of connecting with readers. After I spent so much time and thought getting to know Delia Dark and her world, the ability to share it with others is nothing less than exhilarating.

I love hearing from readers on GoodReads, or Twitter or Facebook, wherever.

The hardest part? Bad writing days for sure. At best, writing is a magical experience wherein the words seem to flow so easily that I wonder if my hands are just outputting work my brain has already done long ago. It can be totally surreal and mind-blowing.

Other times, I get stuck and it’s about as awesome as chewing on glass. Ouch. But I love doing it, so I keep chewing through the disappointment until it starts to flow again.  I just keep going. 

Q: Finally, could you share a snippet of your favourite scene from The Art of Disappearing?


Tough pick! I’m going for one that won’t include any spoilers. This is a scene where Delia and Zach are walking home together and Delia, currently obsessing about her seemingly psychic powers and the responsibility that comes with them, is trying to get some input from Zach.

Except he’s all-science, all-the-time. Here goes:

We walked a bit before I finally asked, “What’s so cool about physics?”

Zach thought for a minute. “The certainty. There are laws of physics? Every time it’s, ‘If you do that, then this happens.’ ‘If you do this, then—’”
 

“That happens,” I answered automatically.

“Exactly. I like knowing how things are supposed to turn out.”

“Except they don’t always turn out the way they are supposed to.”

“In physics they do.”

“But not in life they don’t.” I could have given him a bunch of examples, all starting from that day at cheerleading tryouts, but instead I asked, “Do you think it’s possible to stop things from happening?”

“What things?”

I thought for a second. “Like, if you know something’s going to happen, do you think it’s possible to change it so that something else happens?”

“Depends. I’m not going to stop the earth from rotating but if I—” Zach slammed into me hard. I had to hop a step to keep from totally losing my balance.

“Hey!”

“If I push you, you move eeeasy.”

“You pushed hard.”

“It was a scientific experiment, D. One object asserting force on another, changing its path. You can’t get mad at me for that.”


A huge, huge thanks Elena for taking the time out to stop by on my blog and to answer my questions.
 

About Elena:
Elena Perez was born and raised in New Jersey; Elena discovered a love for writing early on.
She majored in English as an undergrad and was then awarded a graduate fellowship in Creative Writing at Temple University.

She lived in Philadelphia while she completed her M.A. and taught writing courses—an experience that she still cherishes—until she decided to make the long-anticipated leap to New York City.

Today Elena lives on NYC’s Lower East Side and is currently working on her next novel. Follow her on twitter @elenabooks or visit her website: www.elenaperezbooks.com.

You can also check her out on Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book review: Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs

A girl trying to escape a cursed world, an enticing and dream-hopping Goblin King who'd do anything to keep her in his world and a dark power threatening to undo them all.

Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs (Entangled Teen)

 

When I first came across Greta and the Goblin King, I remember being immediately intrigued by the title.

While I was deciding on whether or not to add this to my books-to-read pile, I came across a review describing it, and I quote, as "Hansel and Gretel meets Alice in Wonderland meets Labyrinth" (I’d add Peter Pan to this description as well).

Now being a fan of fairy tales - and having loved David Bowie's role as Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth - my interest in this book was pretty much guaranteed. 

Besides, with the promise of supernatural characters that, as much as I love them, aren't vampires, angels or werewolves, I was interested to see what the world described in the synopsis would be like.

Thankfully, Greta and the Goblin King more than proves that it has something different to offer. 

With a brave, bold and fiercely intelligent heroine trying to navigate her way through a deadly, beautiful and treacherous world, it's hard not to become absorbed and invested in this tale that speaks of magic, cursed lands and fantastical creatures.

After trying to save her brother from a witch, Greta is thrown through a fire portal and lands up Mylena, a harsh and unwelcoming world that is a far cry from home. 

The only human in a world filled with dangerous fairies, goblins and a whole host of other vicious and hybrid creatures, Greta is forced to disguise her humanity by keeping her ears covered at all times.

With no other option left, and as a means to survive in the world she's trapped in, Greta becomes a bounty hunter .

Unfortunately for her, Greta's plan to escape fails to go unnoticed, nor is she the only one who wants access to the world outside of Mylena.

With an eclipse on its way, an event which transforms even the tamest of creatures into rabid and bloodthirsty monsters, Greta and the lost boys (the only other humans – all ranging between the ages 12 and 18 - she manages to encounter) will have to find a way to get back to the world they belong, without becoming prey to the ravenous creatures out there.

The first book in a trilogy, Greta and the Goblin has proven to be quite an intriguing and very promising read.

As a huge fan of fairy tales, I always appreciate it when an author takes elements of an old tale and puts a new spin on it – and Chloe Jacobs has not only managed to inventively incorporate this into a beautiful, harsh and forbidding world, but she’s done so in a manner that only adds to the element of uniqueness that can be found in the novel.

Greta, the heroine of the story, absolutely steals the show. As the only human in a frosty world that considers her kind an enemy, Greta’s independence, resourcefulness and ability to fight her way out of some of the most impossible situations, is nothing short of remarkable.

Stubborn to a fault, she displays a don’t-need-a-boy-to-rescue-me attitude, that although sometimes gets her into trouble, is decidedly refreshing. Not only that, but she’s spunky and has quite a mouth on her – showing an effortless amount of bravery that is borderline reckless.

I really couldn’t help but find myself cheering her on.

In the midst of trying to navigate her way through the hostile and dangerous world of Mylena, Greta finds herself having to deal with the attention of Isaac, the young Goblin King; interactions which prove to be quite complicated.

Between mistrust and attraction, the simmering tension between the two certainly add a dynamic that will have the reader begging for more.

I have to admit though, that while Isaac is certainly likeable in his own way, I think it’s safe to say that Jareth is in no danger of being dethroned as the Goblin King of my heart.

I think the problem here for me is, that we don’t see enough of Isaac in this book to actually be able to form more than just a periphery opinion about him; something which I hope will eventually change. 


I also adored the settings of this book. Chloe has managed to not only portray a world that is snow-cold and hostile, but in all of the world’s icy exterior, she’s by the same token, created a world that glitters and shimmers in the moonlight, and one that’s inhabited by enchanting (if decidedly deadly) creatures.

It’s a world of both nightmares and dreams – and is just the kind of thing that lovers of darker fairy tales will enjoy.  And definitely makes this book worth the read.

I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book talk: The Anti-hero who should have lived

Another coloumn I’ve written a while ago which I’ve decided to post here too. Incidentally, since the time I wrote this (which was last month), I’ve still been doing a lot of Harry Potter fan fic reads. Which reminds me, I definitely need to write a piece on my obsession with fan fiction and non-canon pairings.

For now though, I wax lyrical about one of my beloved Harry Potter characters. 


For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a break from my regular reading and have been revisiting the worlds and characters from some of my favourite books, as told from the perspective of fans.

That’s right.

I’ve been devouring an obscene amount of fan fiction; paying a particular amount of attention to Harry Potter (I'll tell you a little more about my obsession with fan fic in an up and coming column).

Now, it's at this point that you might be wondering: just why on earth would I need to go online to revisit a book universe, when I can just go back to the original novels in order to experience it all over again?

SPOILERS AHEAD


Before I continue, if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books (Why on earth not, by the way?) or watched the movies yet, you may want to stop reading this part of the column and visit our reviews section instead.


You see, as it turns out, apparently I still haven't forgiven J.K. Rowling for killing Severus Snape.

Yes, I do realise that it’s been years since I’ve last read Harry Potter, but, having read a good majority of fan fiction in which readers choose to keep Snape alive, has suddenly, and once again, brought home this fact to me.


I understand why he had to die, and yes I think that in putting myself in the shoes of the writer, there’ll always be those characters that (probably) have to be killed for a good cause, but it does not mean that I have to like it (insert sulky pout here).

Ever since I decided to revisit the world of Harry Potter I’ve been feeling decidedly weepy over the Greasy git who made almost everyone’s life at Hogwarts – targeting The Golden Trio in particular – a living hell.

In spite of his nasty demeanour, I've always thought that Snape is one of the most deeply layered, complex and enigmatic characters I’ve encountered in a novel.

Tragic, flawed, mercurial and downright mean to say the least; he is by no means at the top of the list for reader’s best friend of the year award. 

And yet, everything about his vicious and spiteful persona, made him perfect for his dual role of being spy and traitor.

When I first learnt about all the mistakes he's made and what his very reason was for protecting a boy whom he could barely stand, to say my heart bled would be putting it mildly.

Even today I get all choked up when I think of all the sacrifices he's made and the high price he had to pay as a result of his actions.

Such fierce loyalty and devotion shouldn’t have had to be curtailed by death.

If there ever was a queen of mastering the portrayal of the ultimate anti-hero, it would be J.K. Rowling.
 
In my mind, she’s not only managed to create a character that, for the most part, engendered feelings of antipathy in both the reader and the characters he interacted with, but in the process has also humanised him.

I may probably get into trouble with you lovely lot for even daring to say this, but to me he became the hero of the story; well, the anti-hero who should have lived to have been rewarded, really.

I realise that life, both inside and outside of fictional words, does not always play itself out the way that we want it to.

Paradoxically enough, this is the essence that makes life worth all of its challenges and books worth reading. But still, to quote the rather trite saying, "the heart wants what it wants", doesn't it?

At the end of the day, my bleeding heart still feels that it was unfair that he spent the majority of his life making up for the mistakes of the past, and didn’t live to see his redemption in the eyes of his fellow peers.

And this, my fellow book addicts, is why I go back to relive the books online.

Because, JK may have closed the chapter on Harry Potter, but through the eyes of the fans recreating the world and adding their own unique spin on the series, the books and characters come to life over and over again.

And it’s here where I can pretend that Snape still lives on – in both the books and in my memory.

It's as simple as that.

Which character’s story has stayed with you the longest? I'd love to hear about your most memorable book hero/villian/underdog.

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