Thursday, November 27, 2014

Guest post: Confessions of a reluctant book lender

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

Thanks lovely SAHedgehog (not her real name obviously)
 

Disclaimer:
This post was also featured on Women24.com 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mini book review: Glimpse by Kendra Leighton

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Unfortunately, I think the book really failed at this.

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

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

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

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

Which is exactly what happened to me with Glimpse.

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Author guest post: From fanfiction to fiction by Natalia Jaster

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

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

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

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

Not so, she says. 

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

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

About Touch (Summary from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Mature YA. Intended for readers 17 and older*
 

Add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Buy links:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iBooks


Over to Natalia:

From fanfiction to fiction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories will forever react to other stories.

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

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

It’s true.

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

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

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

TOUCH is my first book.

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

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

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

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

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

This, however, is not that book.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fangirl giveaway winner & other bookish things!

Hi book lovelies

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Until next time,
Yours in books always
Tammy