Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book spotlight: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir + giveaway (US only)

It's been a while since I've done a book spotlight, so thanks to Rockstart Book Tours, I'm really happy to be able to feature  AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, which releases in the US today. I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

Below you can check out some info about the book, enter a giveaway courtesy of Penguin Teen, read a letter from Sabaa and view the book trailer.


A letter from Sabaa Tahir.

Dear Readers,

Today, my “baby” AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is finally out in the world! From inception to pub date, this journey took eight years. And what a journey it was: writing, rewriting, revising, editing, querying, submitting; Meeting other debuts, bloggers, booksellers and librarians, and hearing their thoughts on EMBER. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the radness.

And now, the book is here! I am so excited to see it in the hands of readers. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To celebrate release day, I’m giving away two signed, first-edition hardcovers of the book. Details below!

All my best,


Author: Sabaa Tahir
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire.

When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Check out the book trailer!

About Sabaa:

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel.

There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly.

She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a signed hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. US Only.

3 winners will receive a hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and a Sword Letter Opener! US Only.

Ends on May 9th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Giveaway: The SA speculative fiction edition (giveaway now closed)

UPDATE: Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. Unfortunately there could only be one winner, but don't fret, because there'll be more of these to come.

That said, congratulations to The Book Wurrm. You've won yourself copies of any two books listed below. You have 48 hours to claim your prize, thereafter which another winner will be chosen.

Next giveaway will be coming your way in the near future.

Today I’m all about celebrating some of South Africa’s most talented authors and because I want their books to be read widely and everywhere, I’m making this an international giveaway (Yay - although I should add that my giveaways are almost always open worldwide).

I’m offering two of any of the books listed below to one lucky winner.

All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me what the one book is that you wish more people would read or talk about and why.

Below are just a few of the many wonderful SA writers out there and this is only the first of many SA-themed giveaways I’d like to do (Fear not, fabulous SA authors who aren’t mentioned, this is only the beginning).

Here are brief descriptions of the books you stand a chance of winning!

Deadlands by Lily Herne (Add to your Goodreads TBR pile)
In Deadlands, life is a lottery.

Ten years have passed since Cape Town was destroyed in the war with the living dead. Now, human survivors are protected from the zombies that lurch around the suburban Deadlands by shrouded figures known as 'Guardians'.

But the price for protection is steep: each year, the Guardians hold a human lottery in which five teenagers are chosen for a secret purpose.

Seventeen-year-old Lele hates everything about her life in the city: her new school, the brainwashed zombie-lovers, the way everyone seems creepily obsessed with teenagers . . . She wants out. Then she is picked as a Chosen One: but she's not prepared to face whatever shady future the Guardians have in store for her.

So she runs for her life - straight into the Deadlands, and into the ranks of the Mall Rats - a renegade gang of misfit teens who have gone underground - and are preparing to take a stand.

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen (Add it on Goodreads here)
I’ve recently ran a giveaway for Cat’s latest, but for those who haven’t heard of When the Sea is Rising Red, which is Cat’s first published novel, I thought that this would be a fab opportunity for readers to choose this as an option

After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege.

She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik.

Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

The Guardian’s Wyrd by Nerine Dorman (Add it on Goodreads)
Sometimes having a fairytale prince as a best friend can be a real pain.

Jay didn't realise that sticking up for Rowan, the gangly new kid at school, would plunge him into the dangers and politics of the magical realm of Sunthyst. But if anyone is up for the challenge it's Jay September. With his trusty dog, Shadow, at his side, he braves the Watcher in the dark that guards the tunnels between the worlds, and undertakes a dangerous quest to rescue the prince.

It's a race against time - can he sneak Prince Rowan away from under King Lessian's nose and bring him safely back home - all before the prince's sixteenth birthday? Or is Rowan's mother, the exiled Queen Persia, secretly trying to hold onto her power by denying her son his birthright?

Jay is ready for anything, except, perhaps, the suffocating darkness of the tunnels. And that howling …

The Mark by Edyth Bulbring (Add it on Goodreads)
In the future, the world has flipped.

Ravaged by the Conflagration, this is a harsh world where the relentless sun beats down, people’s lives are run by a heartless elite and law is enforced by a brutal brigade.

A mark at the base of the spine controls each person’s destiny.

The Machine decides what work you will do and who your life partner will be.

In this world, everyone must make their contribution. Some more than others. Juliet Seven – “Ettie” – will soon turn 15 and her life as a drudge will begin, her fate-mate mate will be chosen.

Like everyone else, her future is marked by the numbers on her spine. But Ettie decides to challenge her destiny. And in so doing, she fulfils the prophecy that was spoken of before she even existed.

The Faerie Guardian by Rachel Morgan (Add it on Goodreads)
Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years.

That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamor follows her into the Fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the Fae realm.

Easy, right?

Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.
Devilskein & Dearlove by Alex Smith (Add it on Goodreads)
When thirteen-year-old Erin Dearlove has to move in with her aunt on Cape Town’s bustling Long Street, she struggles to adapt to her new life, harbouring a dark secret.

But her friendship with their upstairs neighbour, Mr Devilskein, soon helps her to adjust.

Like Erin, Mr Devilskein has something to hide: he is the keeper of six mysterious doors. He entrusts Erin with the key for one of these doors, and she discovers that they lead to infinite magical worlds.

In wonder she explores an underwater paradise, the lost works of William Shakespeare, and a beautiful Chinese garden.

During her adventures she meets a prisoner names Julius Monk, but Julius is not all he appears to be. The captive and his Book of Dooms prove dangerously enticing, and soon it is up to Erin to save the lives of those she’s grown to love.

Devilskein & Dearlove is as sinister and intriguing as it is quirky and colourful. With inimitable storytelling flair, Alex Smith weaves an enchanting tale of friendship, adventure and magic.

Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok (Add it on Goodreads)
That night, I slip into her mind and dream her dreams. I see myself, Thuli, strange and disconnected and the wrong way round, like I’m stuck in a mirror.

We walk across the patch of veld to Saviour’s Pit Stop, our arms crooked at the elbows and linked together. The sky is silver-blue and the propeller on the Legend winks as it turns slow in the breeze, fanning our cheeks. The colour of her dreaming is sharp, as if our lives then were so much brighter…

In childhood Thuli and Sindi are inseparable, pinkie-linked by a magic no one else can understand.

Then a strange man comes knocking, bringing news from a hometown they didn’t know existed. His arrival sets into motion events that will lead them into the darkest places, on a search for salvation where the all-too-familiar and the extraordinary merge, blurring the boundaries between dream and reality.

Updated: Giveaway closes 25th of May.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book talk: 10 Bookish rules to live by [a repost]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of my columns here, and seeing as I’ve been whinging a lot about readers who don’t return books in the same condition it was lent to them, on Twitter, I thought I’d post this little column on book rules to live by.

Warning: Some (mostly harmless) snark ahead. :-))

The first two points are most important as they involve, and are addressed to the non-readers in our lives.

Here goes:

1) Stop interrupting us when we’ve huddled into the most comfortable spot imaginable and are completely immersed in the world between the pages.

Unless someone needs to be rushed to the hospital or the house is on fire, we will assume that any of your mortal needs can either be taken care of by you, or by the other person in the house who doesn't read.

2. Avoid trying to persuade us to get rid of books because you think there’s no space.

The floor is a space.

If you trip over a book, it’s not the book’s fault. You just need to be more careful and watch where you’re going, for goodness sake! You could damage the book you're tripping over.

The points below are for the fellow bookish folk we can all relate so well to.

3. Return books that were lent to you. No one likes a book thief.

4. Oh, and if you do bring the book back, the only coffee stains we want to see on them, are no coffee stains.

5. Don’t mock people for their choice of reading material. Every book has its place and there’s room for every kind of reader.  If you want to read that naughty bodice ripper, I say go for it.

And if you want to wax lyrical about the most obscure piece of literature out there, then by all means do it. Just as long as it makes you happy.

6. Have an opinion about a book you’ve never read? Well, aren’t you precious? By all means, love or hate a book, but if you choose to feel something about a book, shouldn’t you at least have given it a fair chance before forming an opinion about it?

Sure, some books warrant that “I couldn’t get past the first chapter feeling,” but you’d need to have opened the book for you to have that feeling, wouldn’t you?

My issue isn't with those who think a book is rubbish, but with the people who make up their mind about a book before they've sat down to actually read it. Instead what they do, is read dissertations and online columns and opinions about it, and automatically absorb those as their opinions.  

7. Try not to spoil book endings. Spoil it for yourself if you must (I know lots of people who are fond of sneaking a peek at the back), but for many people, it's not just about the journey that takes you there, but about how it all ends. No one should be robbed of that, don't you think?

8. Ditch the e-book vs paperback debate. Personally, I believe there is room for both and if e-books and e-readers are becoming more, then who am I to say “be gone with you e-menace?”

While I certainly and mostly read paperbacks (and will probably always have a preference for them), I wouldn’t get rid of my Kindle or my reading apps on my phone at all. It’s the stairs and escalator analogy over again. I like knowing that both are at my disposal.

9. Try not to think too badly of those who mess up the book-to-film adaptations.

Wait. Forget I said this immediately. Judge as mercilessly as you want.

10. Always make time to visit the library. There’s a treasure trove to be found that’s worth more than a Valentino design. Even if the physical price says otherwise.

Those are just a few of the rules in my list. Why don't you tell me about the rules you'd add to your own book manifesto?
I’d love to read what you have to say.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 book quotes that make me feel all the things

It’s been years since I’ve last taken part in the Top Ten Tuesday meme, a feature brought to you by the fabulous bloggers over at The Broke and The Bookish.  In today’s post, and as per this week’s theme, I share the top 10 quotes that have made me feel all sorts of emotions.

This won’t be the first bookish quotes post I’m doing, but I never get tired of talking about passages or quotes from books that have deeply resonated with me, hence this post.

So, without further ado, here’s my top 10. 

1.  “It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Why this resonated: As someone who has depression ( I wrote about this in a post quite a while back), this passage really hit home. While my experience with this book has left me feeling, for the most part, divided about it, for me, Jennifer has perfectly summed up the stigma surrounding depression; a stigma I’ve often been subjected to.

Let’s face it, it’s easier to treat a physical wound than it is to repair what’s broken on the inside.  And In that respect, I’m so glad I read this book, because it’s really good to see authors addressing and debunking myths surrounding mental health issues. 

It’s one of the biggest reasons I could overcome my initial misgivings about this book and it’s a passage that will probably stay with me for a long, long time to come.

2. “It's a lot easier to be lost than found. It's the reason we're always searching and rarely discovered--so many locks not enough keys.” Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Why it resonated: What would this list be without a Sarah Dessen quote?  I’ve yet to read a book of hers where I don’t get something from it, and Lock & Key proved to be no exception.  And to think it took me a second try before I finally fell in love with this book. 

The quote above really speaks to me on both a personal and introspective level, and appeals to that part of me that really longs to travel.

3.  “I will go out again this very night with my rockets and fuses. I will blow them straight out of their comfortable beds. Blow the rooftops off their houses. Blow the black, wretched night to bits. I will not stop. For mad I may be, but I will never be convenient.”Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Why it resonated: Words can’t even begin to describe how much love I have for this book. In fact, I’m just going to direct you to the review I wrote for this, since this would only be a repeat of everything I’ve said.
Trust me though, it’s one of the best YA historical fiction novels I’ve read to date. I took so much from this book, and I especially loved the brave, courageous and butt-kicking heroines who taught me that the act of courage comes in so many different forms.

4. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Why this resonates: Because it reminds me that for every single bad thing that happens, there’s always hope for a better day. Sometimes it takes a while to get to that better day, but eventually, brand new days always show up just when you need them..

5.  “Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars.” - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

Why it resonates:
Because this encapsulates what I feel every time I open the pages of a new book.
6.  “I think that lesson was the most important: that none of us actually grow up. We get bigger, and older, but part of us always retains that small rabbit heart, trembling furiously, secretively, with wonder and fear. There's no irony in it. No semantics or subtext. Only red blood and green grass and silver stars” - Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Why it resonates: Because, at the heart of it, I’m still a child who refuses to grow up.  And quotes like these remind me why I should encourage and nurture that inner kid.

7. “These woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Why it resonates: My post wouldn’t be complete without a little something from my favourite poet, and at the heart of it, I really do want to travel those miles before sleep catches up with me. Don’t we all? 

8. “My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.

I counted.

It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of miles away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey.

I remember asking, 'What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?' and my father said, 'Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,' and that was the last thing he ever said.
― Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road

Why this quote resonates: Because this book is my heart, my soul and my everything.  Also, it’s one of those books whose opening lines you just don’t forget. Ever. You’re welcome to check out my review over here.

9.  “Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

― Dylan Thomas

Why this one resonates:  Because I want to leave this world with the knowledge that I’ve achieved something worthwhile, and while I’m alive, I’m going to kick, scream and rollercoaster my way through life until my inner self is content that I have lived well enough to leave a legacy worth remembering behind.
Grandiose perhaps, but there you have it. 

“When you grow up by the sea there's a kind of magic that never leaves you. The shimmery silver of salty mornings stays inside your bones. The rattling of windows on a winter night sharpens your senses. There's always power and deceptiveness in a flat blue sea. I'm a coast-town girl.  I know how quickly gentle water can turn into a foaming black mountain.” The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Why this resonates: Because this book is apple tarts and magic realism.

It is bitter strife, but also sweet hope and it reminds me that life is one churning mass of water that, at its own whim, will either cast you a safety net or throw you to the sharks.

Mostly it reminds me how good it feels to burn with the force that is life… regardless of whether it’s a gentle flame or  a raging and uncontrollable inferno.

You can read my review of the book here.

How about you? What are some of your favourite quotes and why? Please feel free to comment and leave a link to your post so I can visit in return.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The follow up to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Hodkin’s Evolution of Mara Dyer is a story filled with nail-biting tension, intense creepiness and spine-chilling moments.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (published by Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster UK, in 2013)

Review first appeared on Women24.com.

You can purchase a copy of the book on Raru.co.za

Given that The Evolution of Mara Dyer is the second book in a trilogy, this review may contain spoilers from the first book.

I’m a sucker for a good, psychological and mind-bending, twisted read.

This, is why I finally decided to pick up The Evolution of Mara Dyer. It’s a book that’s been sitting in my shelf for ages, and one that I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

The first thing you should know is that this isn’t the kind of book you can read without having read the first book.  The events that occur in this book, is preceded by the cliff-hanger ending of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

I think that part of the reason why it took me so long to read this book, is because I adored the first book so much; and was afraid that the second book wouldn’t live up to my ridiculously high expectations.

Second book syndrome, as the bookish muses like to call it.

Thankfully, from the moment I started reading, my reservations quickly dissipated.  I ended up deeply immersed in a story filled with tension, intense creepiness and some gore-inducing, spine-chilling moments guaranteed to leave you feeling on edge.

When we last left off, Mara Dyer found herself reporting to the police in an attempt to surrender. However, instead of being locked up in a cell, she ends up in a psychiatric treatment centre, as no one seems to believe that her ex-boyfriend, Jude, is still alive.

Still struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend and her lethal ability, Mara knows that the only way she can get out of the treatment centre, is by faking normality.

But, it’s easier said than done.

And with her (unwanted) ability to kill people with her mind, flashbacks to a past life she has no recollection of, and dealing with deliberate and gory reminders of events that have happened, Mara’s battle is only beginning.

If you love books that combine the sinister atmosphere of abandoned asylums with the supernatural, then you’ll love this.

Michelle Hodkin has a gift for creating an acute sense of menace, and the beauty of this novel lies in the fact that the sinister proceedings aren’t always overt (although when it is, it’s hectic).

Most of the time if feels as if things are moving slowly and insidiously, creeping up on you in a way as there is a feeling of impending doom with each and every turn of the page.

Feeling inclined for a book to scare the wits out of you? Do yourselves a favour and pick this one up.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

A beautiful, bittersweet and delightfully subverted reimagining of a classic story that has been (and still is) enchanting both young and old since the age when fairy tales first began. 

Disclaimer: This review first appeared on Women24.com

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen (published by Henry Holt in 2015) 

Sarah is the only daughter of parents who’ve always lived nomadic lives. 

Since her mother hates the wintry weather, the family is often forced to move to warmer places.

As a result, Sarah spends most of her time feeling very lonely.

What she doesn’t realise, is that there’s more to her family’s movements than they’re letting on; movements that soon have a huge impact on her when her mother walks out on the family.

When her father’s behaviour changes dramatically, it isn’t long before Sarah’s deposited at the doorsteps of her grandparents’ home – grandparents that she’s never even met.

In the isolated woods of her grandmother’s almost-defunct castle, our young heroine soon discovers that curses are real, and that not all magic is good magic.  It’s up to her to decide whether or not she’ll give into the inevitable or fight to wrestle control over the curse that has kept her family in chains for years.

Forget all you know about the original version of Beauty and the Beast, because Cat Hellisen takes this timeless tale and twists it into a narrative that is as dark as it is hopeful, as bitter as it is sweet and as gloomy as it is bright.

I mean, it’s certainly not every day you read a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, where the beast is the girl, right?

In fact, while there are some glimpses to be had of the original tale, Cat does a tremendously beautiful job of transforming this story into a world of its own – one that is intentionally not bound by the rules of the account we’re all familiar with.

Part of the reason why I love this book so much is that while the story is in many ways a nod to the fairy tale of yonder, Beastkeeper captures the tone of the darker versions of tales that are often either under rug swept or Disneyfied.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’ve got nothing against the toned down versions of tales that we’re familiar with, but I’m a huge fan of darker folk and fairy tales, and as such, appreciate it when authors aren’t afraid to throw their characters into the deepest pits of hell, bring them out and drag them back there, before they finally manage to claw their way to the surface again.

And Beastkeeper is a book that does exactly that.

It’s beauty and light. Dark and vengeful. Full of shape-shifting imagery mired in contradictions, questionable motives and unexpected detours.

It explores what happens when a young girl, on the cusp of adolescence, is thrown to the wolves after her parents fall prey to a curse that’s been running in her family line for years.

The novel is also a tale that examines the resilience of human nature.

So often people underestimate what a child can and cannot endure and one of the overriding aspects of this novel showcases how the author isn’t afraid to throw Sarah, who is 12-years old, into the worst situations imaginable.

From being abandoned (and being forced to cope with the gut-wrenching emotions paired with that desertion), to dealing with cold, unfeeling grandparents who couldn’t be bothered about her well-being (at one point she’s even locked out of the castle), Sarah has to find a way in a world that won’t make a way for her.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to feel optimistic in a world where you’ve been left feeling unwanted, forgotten and disenfranchised, but the beauty of Beastkeeper is that despite her hardships, Sarah finds a way to keep going.

With a little assistance from the magical forest, a strange fey-like boy and her own magic and inner strength, Sarah sets out to do what the older and more selfish members of her remaining family have failed to do:  break the curse.

Unfortunately, once again (oh, how Cat Hellisen likes to torment her characters) breaking the curse isn’t as simple as a promise made and kept, and witchy interference, ice-laden hearts and death are visitors whose appearances exacerbate all of Sarah’s efforts.

But like all fairy tales, there is the offer of hope.

And while what ends up being isn’t what you and I imagine is supposed to be, the conclusion that we get is a version that will satisfy the realist, while leaving the idealist with the sense that it’s not really an end, but a new beginning.

And isn’t that what stories about stories are all about?

(I, for one, would certainly like to see a short little story after the fact, especially after reading the beautiful short story prequel explaining the origins of the curse  *hint, hint Cat*)