Thursday, 28 February 2013

Gratitude Thursday #1

I saw this meme on Cathy's blog I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and I couldn't resist it. 2013 is my gratitude year and I'm constantly working on putting a gratitude spin on everything - both good and bad - that happens in my life. So this meme was logical for me. Thank you Cathy.

Today I'm very grateful that I was home when the water pipe in my bathroom burst. It's amazing how quickly a room can flood with the pressure of a small town reservoir behind it!

Thankfully Andrew and I were home (sleeping actually - it was in the middle of the night) so we could deal with it before the whole house flooded.

We spent the day without water, waiting for the plumber. That taught me gratitude too.

Millions of women in Africa spend every day of their lives walking to and from communal water points to collect water for their families. They have learned to carry heavy buckets on their heads, leaving their arms free to carry babies. How grateful am I that I do not have to do that daily. Because I don't want to use other people's pics without permission, I've given you a link to a picture of just such women.

What are you grateful for to today?


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What's your Favourite POV?

Ask any reader what makes a great book and most will say ‘the characters’. Yes, there are folk who read for the plot, but most of us read because we're interested in how the characters handle the twists and turns. We either love and root for the characters, or we hate them and want them destroyed.

Then there are the exceptions who often love the bad guy. 

The Darkling from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is a case in point. I adore him. He’s my perfect book boyfriend. How sick is that?

But I digress…

As an author, getting into the heads of the character is the most difficult part of writing. Trust me, coming up with the story is dead easy. There are stories and worlds unfolding around us all the time. The challenge is finding the characters to inhabit those worlds.

In my experience, writing from a single POV is the easiest – and the most limited. Imagine if Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins had been written from a broader perspective. We would have been privy to the off-scene manipulations of Katniss. It would have given us fuller picture of her motives and I may have liked her more. And we could have been part of Peeta’s experience too. I think it would have made a better book. Just my view. I thought it interesting that the movie-makers shot The Hunger Games from a third person POV and not just from Katniss’s limited view.

I wrote Pledge from an omniscient POV because I thought it worked best for the story. Omniscient POV is not an easy one to work with because when you can see in everyone’s head at the same time, it’s difficult to keep up the mystery and tension. Some reviewers thought I did it well. And others didn’t get it at all. Omniscient is not a common POV these days, although some authors do use it. Garth Nix in the Abhorsen series is a case in point, although he does it with a very light touch.

With my reworking of Pledged into Battle Cry, I’ve decided on a third person limited POV. The story is told through the eyes of two main characters, Neo and Kiean. It's proving to be an interesting challenge. To work successfully, each character has to be a fully fleshed out individual. Neither can rely on the other to pull them along. But you could say that living/breathing characters are essential in any book. Too true. But with third person POV each character has to stand alone, telling a unique tale within the overall plot. And each story has to move the plot along, dovetailing the book to a breathtaking climax. Sounds easy? It’s not.

So how well do I know Neo and Kiean? They are opening up to me as we go along. Soon I will know them better than my biological children. (I hope my kids aren’t reading this blog) I plan to introduce them to you soon because they’re keen to meet you.

So I bow down in humble awe to the masters (and mistresses) who have done third person limited POV so well. Let me share some of my favourites with you….

Goodreads: Pushing The Limits

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.


Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

So what are some of your favourite third person reads? I'd love to know.


Waiting on Wednesday #1

This week I've decided to do WOW hosted by MizB As you know she always asks: 

• What are you currently reading?

I am an undying fan of Orson Scott Card in general and Ender Wiggin in particular.

In this book (the sequel to Ender's Game), Ender has just destroyed the Formics, the alien race threatening planet Earth. But although a thirteen-year-old hero, he's too dangerous a weapon to be allowed back to Earth.

This is the story of how ungrateful mankind - and the conniving politicians who control them - managed to exile Ender, sending him as Governor to a new world called Shakespeare. 

Thus far I'm thoroughly enjoying it. No surprises there!

Goodreads: Ender in Exile

• What did you recently finish reading?

I really enjoyed this book. It has more twists and turns than a spiral staircase. The characters are fun and the concept great. Basically Isabel is a shifter whose only purpose in life is to protect the prince/king. Trust me, she comes with some pretty special powers and fighting skills to achieve that end.

But, as usual in the books we love, nothing is ever as it seems, and there are complications. It's these complications which make the book so intriguing, keeping me guessing right to the end. I really thought I had the mystery figured, but I was so wrong!

 If you like beautifully written high fantasy you will love this.

Goodreads: Mistwood


• What do you think you’ll read next?


I'm enjoying kick-butt girls at the moment so I thought I'd take this out for a spin! 

Great cover, hey?

Goodreads: Throne of Glass

And you? I'd love to get some good recommends.


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Stacking The Shelves

Thanks to Tynga for hosting this meme. I welcomed two Kindle books into the family this week.

Last week I featured Nightspell. Since then I've read it and it was such fun.

The characters are well developed, the world building fantastic - Ghostland is amazing - and the plot complex. 

I would recommend this to anyone who likes high fantasy, kick-butt female characters, intrigues and ghosts. Wonderful stuff. My favourite character was definitely Cassie. If you've read it I'd love to know your views.

Because I loved Nightspell to the value of four stars (and because the ending was left hanging with so much promise for more) I went onto Amazon to find a sequel.

There wasn't one. Duh! This was the second in a series, (Although it works just as well as a stand-alone), so I immediately downloaded the first book Mistwood onto my Kindle.

Stunning cover . . . what do you think?

Anyway, I stayed up until three this morning reading Mistwood, and I'm hugely impressed. I just cannot understand why it's only sitting with a 3.54 star rating on Goodreads. Anyone know the answer??? I'll tell you what I think when I'm done reading it.

While I was on Amazon, I couldn't resist downloading Roar And Liv: An Under The Never Sky Story onto my Kindle. I have been meaning to read this for ages and since I've just reread Under The Never Sky, I just couldn't resist it.

So that was my week. Tell me about yours.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Frivolous Friday #3

Living in South Africa I get to see some amazing wild life. That said, we always laugh at foreigners who think we have lions and elephants wandering down our streets. I promise, it’s not like that. I have to leave the urban areas and go into the bush to see wild animals! Luckily southern Africa as a whole is richly endowed with game reserves. So today I thought I’d share some pictures of a very grumpy elephant with you. These were taken in Kruger National Park in South Africa by my husband Andrew. Enjoy!

 I really don't know what that road sign did to offend, but he was having none of it.

Have an amazing weekend

P.S: Don’t forget to drop into Elisa at She’s got a great chocolate cake recipe going to day . . .

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dying in Style. Or Not.

Beware . . . beyond here be dragons. Or, in Goodreads terms, Spoilers. You have been warned.

So, dying with style  . . . or, in other words, how do authors keep us engrossed in their worlds after killing off much-loved characters?

I’m sure you know what I mean . . . we’ve all read books in which we’ve gasped, cried or ranted when a character we love is knocked off as a plot device.  

I’m ashamed to admit that I even stopped reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, (which I thought was amazing) because that twit Patrick Ness let Manchee the talking dog die! 

At that point, I was too stressed and exhausted by Todd and Viola’s plight to cope with Manchee’s death. Perhaps if the pace hadn't been so hectic and I'd had time to absorb what was happening, I wouldn't have been so offended. But I was angry, so much so that I even marched the book off to the second-hand bookstore – and that’s really is something, given that I don’t buy books, I adopt them.
Years on, I still haven’t forgiven Ness, so the Knife of Never Letting Go – and the rest of what could have been a humdinger series - remains unread.

In my view, if authors are going to kill off important characters, they must convince us that it's justified and not done only for shock value, or on a whim.

To me, Mockingjay was another book with a whole lot of totally senseless deaths.

Add caption

Collins barely left a character standing after Katniss and Co roared through the Capital on their ‘secret’ mission. 

Although most people lamented Prim’s death, it was the almost off-handed reference to Finick’s demise that really got me. By the time Prim snuffed it, I was in such a state of shock that I couldn't grasp that she was gone. Maybe the movie will bring it home for me. 

Yes, I know. I can almost hear you crying that The Hunger Games was about war, and that people die senselessly in war. Sorry, I'm not buying it. People can still die needlessly without their deaths being flippant and matter-of-fact. Collins didn't even give us time to grieve, and in real life, humans always have time for grief - even in the most tragic circumstances.

I just know that at the end of Mockingjay, I felt I needed therapy.

Perhaps I wouldn't feel so strongly about these books if it hadn't been for another author who, in my opinion,  handled her deaths so much better.

JK Rowlings was also required to kill off most of her leading characters, but she didn’t leave me feel drained and shell-shocked. 

Honestly, I can think of few protagonists who have been so stripped of friends and loved-ones as was Harry. Almost everyone who mattered to him, except Hermione, (girl power!) abandoned him at some point, or died. Harry really had to take that final walk into the forest alone.

I've forgotten Todd (I needed to Google Viola's name) and Prim, but I still grieve for Sirius and weep for Dobby. I never want to read The Hunger Games again, (I'm not even sure I'll see the next two movies) but Harry Potter remains one of my favourite series of all time. 

What was the difference in the writing? I'd love to hear your views.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Across The wall - Review

To be honest, I bought this book because I wanted to read Across The Wall, the final novella in the Abhorsen series. Imagine my delight then, when I discovered twelve other wonderful short stories, almost all with Nix’s characteristic fantastical twist! Enchanted, that’s what I was.

Let me deal with the shorties first before I review Across The Wall.

I really am hard-pressed to choose a favourite, but I think the joint award goes to Hope Chest, Under the Lake, Heart’s Desire and Hansel’s Eyes.

What’s so intriguing about this book, is that Nix explains how each story came to be written, giving such insight into him as an author. Anyway, Hope Chest grew out of his love for spaghetti Westerns. This magical story shows us what happens when a Hitler-like figure arrives in a small town, where the enigmatic ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ Alice May lives. The result is both bloody and compelling. It has an almost dystopian feel. Wonderful.

Although Nix claims to hate the Arthurian legend, there are two stories based on that mythology. Under the Lake  - a twist on the Lady of the Lake - and Heart’s Desire – the story of Merlin and Nimue. Both feature Merlin, but in very different guises. And trust me, there is definitely be something lurking at the bottom of that lake, but she’s no lady!

Hansel’s Eyes is a modern-day retelling of the Grimm’s classic, complete with a ‘Hagmum’. A fantastic page-turner filled with equal parts of humour and terror.

Finally, Across The Wall . . . In this action-packed novella, Nicholas Sayre – one of my favourite fictional characters – makes his way from Ancelstierre to the Old Kingdom – and Lirael. The story ends with all the implied love left hanging at the end of the Abhorsen series. And hopefully with room for more books seen from Nicholas and Lirael’s POV. Please, Garth Nix, please! Because this story is set in Ancelstierre, Nix had to create a new world, and he drew heavily on the writing of another favourite author of mine, PG Wodehouse, for his country house setting. It worked very well. Still, I was sad when the book ended. I for one am just not ready to leave the Old Kingdom yet.

As an author, I find great inspiration in Garth Nix's books, so if you choose to follow my blog, beware, you will be hearing more about his brilliant work.

I give this book four stars. Across The Wall gets a full five.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Stacking the Shelves #2

Yes, it's Saturday, time for a look at the new additions to The Family. Thanks to Tynga for hosting this meme.

I was sparing this week . . . given that I still have about twenty unread waifs sitting on my TBR shelf, waiting for final acceptance in the inner circle of The Family.

So what did I get?

1. Trouble Twisters: The Monster. This is the second book in the Trouble Twister series and I don't yet have the first. I rectified that immediately by order it's companion. I admit this series is probably younger than I normally read (it looks like Middle Grade) but you know me and Garth Nix! 'Nuf said.

2. Daughter of the Flames: I recently finished Frostfire, the second in this series (although it works just as well as a stand alone). It was AMAZING, so when I saw this, I had to have it. Logical, right?

3. Nightspell: A classic case of cover love. It looks so intriguing, I couldn't resist it. Have to see what it's all about.

Finally, what am I reading at the moment? Actually, it's a re-read of an all-time favourite . . . 

Under The Never Sky is as wonderful this time round as it was when I first read it. Pity about the awful cover. It does NOT do this book justice.

That's me?  What about you?


Friday, 15 February 2013

Frivolous Friday #2

Welcome to another Frivolous Friday.

Living in South Africa is certainly interesting. Our Rainbow Nation (as we call ourselves) share 11 different official languages and almost as many distinct cultures. This diversity is reflected in our every day lives.

Just ten minutes from my home, I can shop for Beluga caviar, Prada shoes, and Channel no 5 at a world class mall, complete with marble floors and high-tech lights. Or I can go browse the local markets, buying fresh fish straight off the back of a pickup truck parked at the wharf. Or meat straight off the hoof at a make-shift butcher.

Fish sold off the back of a truck.
Typical African meat seller.

When my brother (he's been living in England for twenty-odd years) saw this meat market, he freaked, saying that the boys in Brussels (the bureaucrates who rule Europe) would turn blue if one the local supermarkets decided to adopt this for their butchery section!

I think it just adds to the colour and charm that is Africa.

(Just so you know, I don't wear Prada, hate caviar and only occasionally indulge in the perfume. Channel no 5 is my favourite)


 P.S Don't forget to check out my inspiration for this feature:

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Just to get into the spirit, I thought I'd share a few love quotes from some of my favourite books and writers. Feel free to add any others you know of in the comments section.

“I love you," he whispered. "I hope you don't mind.” 
Garth Nix, Sabriel

“Luke used to give me butterflies. Noah spawned mutant pterodactyls.”
Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits

“But it's always taking a risk, when you ... kiss someone new.”
Scott Westerfield, Pretties 

“Will you please tell me you love me? I’m dying here.”
Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

“Fall off your own roof.”
Veronica Rossi, Under the Never Sky

"Choice or no, my heart is his."
 Beth Revis, A Million Suns,

She was ready to deny the existence of time and space rather than admit that love might not be eternal. 
Simone de Beauvoir.

Have a wonderous day, filled with love and good things.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013



This book was an impulse buy based solely on the cover - perhaps that's because I love scary birds.
At first I struggled to get into it, largely due to the shifting POV. The POV wanders through Blue, Gansey, Adam and Welck's minds, and at times I thought it was too much. But once I'd figured out who was whom, Blue and the Raven Boys and I got on just fine.

The story is simple. Blue lives with her psychic mom and a bunch of 'seeing' aunts. Since she was little she's been told she will cause the death of her true love by kissing him. The threat didn't have much menace until she meets Gansey under some rather strange circumstances. Her Aunt Neeve informs her casually that Gansey will be dead within the year - either murdered in anger by Blue, or by Blue’s kiss of love. Their relationship seems doomed, but like all teenagers, they find away to get together. But the romance – such as it is in this book – is definitely not typical, or obvious. 
That was one of my comments . . . the blurb sells the book as a love story, but the love was definitely secondary to the story. That didn’t worry me overly, but I do think that someone looking for a romance could be justifiably ticked off.

The main plot is that Gansey is searching for an ancient Welsh king. Although supposedly dead, Gansey and his friends - the Raven Boys - believe he’s merely sleeping on a magical ley line in Virginia, US. The person who finds and wakes this venerable monarch will be rewarded with a special favour. All the characters have heir own compelling reasons for wanting to be the one to break the old boy’s slumbers.

What did I like about the book?

The Characters. Maggie Stiefvater knows each of them intimately, like they’re living-breathing people. Through her writing, she brings them alive for the reader. My favourites are two of Gancey’s friends, Adam and Noah. Both tortured in their own way, they are really fascinating people whom I was sorry to say goodbye to. I’m really looking forward to the sequel to pick up on their stories again.

What I didn’t like:

There are too many POVs. I can see why Maggie Stiefvater did that, but it still made it confusing at times.

Would I recommend it?

You bet! If you like your magic mixed with mythology, carried off by strong characters, then this one is for you.

I give it 4 stars.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


Oh man, it feels like my head has been fried. Or should I say ‘Flared’. Trust me, you cannot read 327 pages of The Kill Order without ending up thinking you’ve caught the killer virus.

I really enjoyed The Maze Runner series even though I didn’t connect with either Thomas or Teresa – that's a testament to Dashner’s storytelling that I was willing to hang in, reading not only the three books in the series, but the prequel too.

The Kill Order is set years before Thomas and Teresa are sent to the maze. In fact, in this book they are both little older than toddlers. The hero of this story is a seventeen-year-old boy named Mark, helped by the “Old Bear”, an ex-soldier Alec. Mark, of course, has a love interest, Trina.

The story opens moments after the sun flares have destroyed most of the planet. From there, Dashner shows – in graphic detail – how the population was infected with the Flare virus. 

With that out the way, the plot is very straightforward. Mark and Alec have to get from point A to point B and then back to point A without being eaten alive by the ‘crazies’. This journey entailed many fist fights, described in great detail. Mark even says that he’d had the air knocked out of him about a hundred times in a couple of days. So, if you like fast-paced crack, cut and thump, then this book is for you. Sadly, it didn’t work so well for me. 

So, what did I like?

I appreciated the descriptions of how the virus eats away at the brain, driving decent people into rabid insanity. This was not something Dashner could really describe in the books from Thomas’s POV. But be warned, it makes for pretty horrific reading. It also explained why Teresa was so adamant that WICKED was good. As can be expected, there are no happy endings for most of the characters in this book.

Would I recommend The Kill Order?
If you really loved the series, then definitely. It’s a good scene setter. But if you were lukewarm, then no, don’t waste your time, because you’ll probably hate it.

My rating: 3 stars.


Stacking The Shelves #1

Nothing thrills me as much as sneaking into the bookshop when I’m supposed to be doing something serious - like grocery shopping - and scooping up a new book gem. I know I sound shallow, but it makes life worth living. And then to come home and put the new member of the family on the TBR shelf! Words cannot begin to describe the joy . . .

So, it made sense that Staking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga at would be the perfect meme for me.  

This week I added three new books to the family . . .

 The Abhorsen series was AMAZING and I just had to have this to complete my collection. Can't wait to read it.

I am undying fan of Ender and plan to read his whole series - I call it a labour of love. This is the follow on from Ender's Game.

I downloaded this onto my Kindle. It's the prequel to The Maze Runner series. I've started reading it, and right now it's sitting at a 2.5-3 star book. Not nearly as riveting as the others . . . but we'll see when I get to the end.

What did you get this week?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Frivolous Friday – 8 Feb

Frivolous Friday is a fun idea I’ve stolen from one of my favourite blogs -  Elisa started this weekly feature ages ago as a way of introducing something personal about herself. I never miss it. Through Frivolous Friday I’ve got to know her so much better than just by reading her great book reviews.

I've therefore decided to do my own Frivolous Friday.

I live on the southern tip of Africa, in a beautiful rural town surrounded by sea and mountains. You can get an idea of what it looks like from the photo. My husband Andrew is a pilot, and he mounted a camera on the wing of his plane to get the shot.

My home turf

Cape Town is a forty minute drive from my home. It's a cosmopolitan city with a distinct Europe meets Africa feel, which I love. I get a kick out of spending the day there, raiding the books shops and sitting at street cafes watching the passing the parade. Magic.

Table Mountain from the Victoria & Albert Waterfront

Table Mountain - that big lump of rock in the photo - has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world. It deserves it.

Enjoy the weekend.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Male Leads - An Endangered Species?

For my first post on my new blog (Yah!) I decided to ask a question: why are there so few Young and New Adult books written from a male's POV? And by that I don't mean a guy sharing the stage with a girl, like Noah does in Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

Maybe it's just me, but I can only think of a handful of books where the boy is the hero. Harry Potter, obviously. But then I have to start wracking my brains, and the following list is the best I can come up with.

Ender Wiggin, the hero, is an amazing little boy. He's only six when he's taken from his family and sent to Battle School to train as the commander of the world's starfleet, fighting against an alien race.  When the book ends he's just turned thirteen, so he's a lot younger than the usual YA protag. To me, Ender is the quintessential tough guy we all love reading about, but with a heart of gold. Fantastic coming of age story.

In this book we meet Bean. A tiny waif with a HUGE chip on his shoulder who is also taken to Battle School to train as Ender's second-in-command. He also happens to be a genius. Not nearly as likeable as Ender, Bean shows us how living in the ghettos can affect a child. Again, he's as tough as nails, but as brittle as glass on the inside. 

Cassel is on the opposite scale to Ender and Bean. He comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. Although Cassel doesn't really want to be sucked into the 'family business' of crime, he's the perfect confidence trickster. He has no problem fleecing his own mother. But for all that he's a con man, he's very likeable. But again, not your classic hero.

Thomas from The Maze Runner. Hmmm . . .  As much as I loved The Maze Runner series, Thomas and I didn't jell. I only started seeing him as a leader/hero in the final book - The Death Cure. But maybe that's me. In my view Dasher did a much better job with his supporting characters, Minho and Newt. What do you think?
 Again, Rigg, the MC, is not a classic hero. Orson Scott Card seems to like writing about geniuses. Rigg has the power to see the energy trails of humans and animals - going back centuries. He is a smart-mouthed kid who knows everything, and can handle himself in any given situation. I loved the book. But, as I say, he's not your typical hunk of testosterone.

Here we have Trigg - no to be confused with Rigg. Trigg's the kind of guy who is ultra loyal to his little sister and will take any amount of pain for her. He's stubborn and determined. When everyone else is packing up to go home, he's just getting started. But again his talents are more cerebral than buff. He thinks his way though problems, rather than using his fists. Maybe it's a reflection on me, but he doesn't set my heart racing either!
Okay. No. As much as I enjoyed these books, I don't even really see Ethan as a boy. My daughter is going to kill me . . . But he isn't. How many seventeen-year-old boys do you know who wax lyrical about the smell of rosemary and lemons? No, sorry. Nice as he is, Ethan's not a real boy-hunk-hero.

I did not enjoy this book. Jackson and I didn't click. I just did not like him.

So why do you think there are so few books written from the male's POV? Is it because we prefer kick-butt girls? Or is it that most YA authors are women and they're more comfortable writing about girls? Orson Scott Card is a guy and he writes about boys.

I don't have the answer, but I'd love to hear what you think.  Also, please suggest some great books with male protags for me to read.

Until next time,

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