Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book talk: Do you deserve that happily ever after ending?

[Disclaimer: This originally appeared as a Women24 book club newsletter. If you'd like to read more of these columns, and stand a chance of winning our book club's top 10 books, you can sign up here.]

A few years ago, Charlaine Harris, author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries fame (True Blood for those who’ve been following the television of adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse books) received death threats following the ending of the popular book series.

Readers were unhappy with the way the book ended. Many felt the plot was lacking, the characters’ actions nonsensical and that the ending came out of left-field.

I won’t go into detail about why the ending in particular was so upsetting (if you’re really curious and don’t mind spoilers, you can mail me
and I’ll tell you), but what I can tell you is that I do, to a certain extent, understand why people got so upset.

Not enough to warrant all that hatred, but I get it.

When you spend time invested in a book, particularly a book series, you develop a relationship with it.

You formulate speculations about where the character and story arc is going and you develop strong ideas about which character should end up with who (depending on whether or not the story has a romantic element attached to it) and you feel like the author sets the plot in a way that will at least give you an idea of how the book will end.

When you end up with something that contradicts almost everything in the previous instalments in the book, well, obviously readers are going to have a lot to say.

I have been on the receiving end of book endings not concluding the way I was hoping they would. In the beginning, this would bother me immensely. I wasn’t used to my thoughts not lining up with that of the authors and freely admit to that having a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I mean what’s the point if there’s no happy ending for at least one of the characters, right?

These days, as my reading evolves, in terms of genre, narrative preference and format, I find that I’m a lot more open-minded when authors subvert tropes and sacrifice popular opinion for the sake of an ending that’s thought-provoking and one that fits with the story that they wanted told, not the one that we always expect.

I’ve become a huge fan of open-ended conclusions. The endings that aren’t endings at all, but rather give you a hint of more beginnings. For me, those kind of finales allow the readers to think beyond the now and to make up our own new possibilities for the characters in the stories.


Unresolved endings have also become quite popular with me.

In fact, my latest read, After the Woods, left me with no clear resolution and mixed feelings about the protagonists. Yet, I found myself strangely okay with this.

And the reason is simply this: sometimes it’s those books with their unclear endings that have you thinking about them the most. 

After the Woods?

It’s a perfect example of a book that still has me wondering what I’d do differently if I were in the shoes of the characters featured in the book.

What’s your take on this?

Do you prefer happily-ever-after endings or are you more open to conclusions that don’t quite fit the mould and what are some of your best and worst novel endings?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book review: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

Torture, branding and extreme bullying set in a society that places its value on perfection, is the focus of Cecelia Ahern’s (bestselling author of P.S. I Love You) new book.

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24.

A copy of the book can be purchased via Raru.co.za.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (published in 2016 by HarperCollins UK)

Trigger warning: Torture

Imagine living in a world where everything you do is under scrutiny and one bad decision, lie, action or choice could result in you being branded as an outcast. And imagine if this society places the ultimate standard of living in the upholding of morals, ethics and general conduct of its citizens.

This is the world that our protagonist, Celestine, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, inhabits.

Here, you’re either model-perfect or you’re flawed, and the price and punishment for being the latter is living a life enforced with rules and regulations.  It’s one where public shaming is a blood-sport and one that means living on the fringes of society if you’re ever found guilty of so much as a lie.

Mostly, it’s a life where you wear imperfections as physical brands on your body.

Celestine prides herself on following The Guild’s rules and regulations. In fact, she’s the poster girl for those brainwashed into believing a system that judges others for being imperfect (how the irony escapes all of these people is rather questionable, but the fact that Cecelia Ahern somehow makes this work is a testament to just how good her writing is).

It’s rather hard not to be when you’re dating the guy whose father who heads up The Guild – the system established as judge, jury and executioner of those deemed to be Flawed.

And yet, when Celestine finds herself on the wrong side of the law, for an act borne out of compassion, everything she knows about the structure she believes comes crumbling down.

Because not only will she make history as the person to receive the most brands for being flawed, she’ll also become the one outcast who sparks a new movement and uprising.

When I finished this novel, the first question I asked myself was this: Was Cecelia Ahern kicking puppies when she wrote this book?

Because a) this book is dark – brilliant, brutal, but dark and b) I’m not even sure if it’s her writing the book because this is the author of those lovable rom-coms that we’re talking about here.

Yes, you heard me.

The bestselling author of P.S. I Love You has written a dystopian fiction – one that, much to my surprise, I managed to read in one sitting.

This book pulls no punches when it comes to social commentary. Cecilia manages to make sly digs at our obsession with celeb and pop culture, highlighting the ridiculous pedestals we place them on, and the need to chase perfection because of that obsession.

In Cecilia she’s created a character that completely buys into a gimmick of a system that’s so patently absurd, it’s at once frustrating and revolting. She’s hard to like, but eventually, does gain the reader’s sympathy as the book progresses.

When the blinkers come off for Celestine, she has to learn to live with both her physical imperfections and “flaws” (gosh guys, the branding scene in this book is definitely not for the faint-hearted) as well as her prejudiced views against the people who’ve been branded for their “infractions.”

This book is not an easy read, but it’s one that makes you question the emphasis that society places on what it means to be perfect.  It’s a clear parallel in the sense that so many of us are fooled into believing that we have to look a certain way or adapt a lifestyle in order to be accepted, and one that teaches us to not take everything or everyone we see or know, at face value.

Read it. It’s definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book spotlight & giveaway: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead


In today’s post, I’m highlighting The Glittering Court, the fabulous new book from bestselling author Richelle Mead. The book was released earlier this week and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

To celebrate the release, the publishers are offering readers a chance to win a hardback copy, as well as 25$ Sephora gift card. Below you can also find more information on the book. 

Title: THE GLITTERING COURT
Author: Richelle Mead
Pub. Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.

"Brilliant and original, Mead’s new series starts off with a bang and will leave readers on the edge of their seats until the very end." —School Library Journal


For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure.

To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric.

One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.
 
About Richelle: 

Richelle Mead has written over twenty-five novels for teens and adults.

She is the author of the international #1 bestselling Vampire Academy series and its spinoff series, Bloodlines.

Her recent standalone novel, Soundless, draws upon Chinese mythology and history, and her forthcoming series, The Glittering Court, follows the adventures of girls destined for arranged marriages in a fantasy world inspired by colonial America.

A lifelong reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses to wear on tour.

She is a self-professed coffee addict, works in her pajamas, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is hard at work on her next novel.

Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a hardcover of THE GLITTERING COURT & a $25 Sephora Gift Card. US Only.

Ends on April 15th at Midnight EST!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Blog tour: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern's top 5 YA novels





Today I’m very excited to be part of the global tour for Cecilia Ahern’s debut YA novel. As you probably know, Cecilia is no stranger to the world of literature.

With a good series of best-selling rom-coms behind her back, she’s not only proven to be one of the most popular authors in the world, but some of her books have also been made into movies – most notably, P.S. I Love You.

This time around, Cecilia ventures into YA dystopian territory with her new novel Flawed, which is absolutely brilliant, by the way (I read it in one sitting and my review will be up later this week).

In today’s post, I’m sharing a list of Cecilia’s top 5 YA novels, but before I do, here’s some information about the book. 

About the book:
Celestine North lives a perfect life.

She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned.

She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished.

And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Add it to your TBR pile

Cecilia’s Top 5 YA Novels

Huge thanks to publishers (Jonathan Ball, HarperCollinsUK) for allowing us to be part of the tour.

Go out and grab yourselves a copy of this book. It’s dark, edgy and incredibly brilliant.

Follow the #PerfectlyFlawed hashtag on Twitter to keep up to date with all the blog posts being featured on this tour.