Friday, 31 May 2013

Frivolous Friday: Things I Hate About Africa

Welcome to the weekend . . .  and to June! I still can't get my head around the idea that half the year is almost gone. It's almost scary. Or am I the only one to feel that?

Anyway, from the post title you can see I'm divulging another of my pet peeves about living in Africa.

Honestly, it often feels like I'm stranded at the very last table at the very last restaurant at the very end of the universe. (Thank you, Douglas Adams! If you haven't read his hysterically funny book Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Goodreads), then you really should)


But I digress.

Living in Africa is anything but funny when it comes to trying to be part of the modern world.

For example . . . Since I first understood the word 'computer', I've used a Mac. So when eReaders came out you'd think it would be logical for me to buy an iPad (or Mini .  . . droooooool). Too right. But I didn't. I got a Kindle. The reason? You cannot access the iTunes store in South Africa. Why? Protectionism of our music, film and book industries, apparently. But still we can download from Amazon . . .  if we're prepared to pay an extra $2.00 on every purchase as punishment for not living in the US. Never figured that, but still, grrrrrr.

Then movies . . .  Our new releases coincide with the launch of the DVD in the States and Europe. Okay, maybe not quite so bad, but you get the picture.

And books? We wait months, literally, for new books to hit our shores. Goddess by Josephine Angelini (Goodreads) (hotly anticipated by my daughters) released in the USA on the 28 May 2013, but we'll only get it in October. Thank goodness for Book Depository who will deliver books for free.

These are just some of the irritations which come with living in Africa. Compared to so many others I can mention, they are probably minor, but for completeness, they needed a mention.

Next week, it's back to the positives. Thanks for stopping by. Don't be scared to enter my Giveaway for Perception by Lee Strauss - who knows, you might just win.

Cheers
Gwynn
P.S. Elisa had a 'senior moment' last week and forgot to post her FF. I'm sure she's got together today. Call in on her. It's bound to be fun.





Feature and Follow Friday: 31 May 2013





I always check in to see what Parajunkee & Alison Can Read are up to with their FF, but because I don't always relate to the question, I don't always play. But today is an exception.

Q: What blogger would you most like to meet in real life? Tell us about him or her.

I know this sounds like a fan rave, but I do have a blogger I'd like to meet. Her name is Elisa and we have followed and commented on each others blogs for over a year now. You might know her as:
Lost Inside The Covers
 
 
Elisa and don't always read the same kind of books. She's into zombies and vampires in a big way and the more gory it gets, the better! But I can always be guaranteed of finding something interesting over at her blog. Her reviews are also fresh and interesting.

After following her for a year, I now know quite a bit about her. She hikes the southern Californian mountains with her dog Luke. (Something I intend to do more of when I get to the UK) Like me, she's loves wild flowers - and she's not scared to blog about them. Her stories about her family and her life told in her Frivolous Friday feature usually make me laugh.

She's the one I'd meet. I know if she reads this, she'll probably think I'm some kind of weird stalker-type, but I think I can live with that. :-) Anyway, I'd be in good company . . .  half the heroes and heroines we YA addicts read about are stalker-types!

So, that's my answer. What's yours? Leave a link and I'll visit. And, if you like the look of my blog and my wacky reviews, please feel free to follow. I will return the favour.

Cheers
Gwynn
P.S. Don't be shy to enter my Giveaway for Perception by Lee Strauss. You might just win. And you won't be sorry.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Perception by Lee Strauss PLUS Author's Interview PLUS Giveaway.


Perception (Goodreads
Downloaded from Netgalley. 
Thanks to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this one.

 

Wow! What a ride!

This Sci-Fi set in future America has it all: 
Genetic manipulation. Cyborgs. Cloning. Action. Suspense. Mystery. You name it, it's here. 
Love, too. 
My stomach fluttered at the very sweet, but forbidden romance between the two main characters, Zoe and Noah. 

Seventeen-year-old Zoe is a GAP - a beautiful, long-lived, Genetically Altered Person.  
She lives with her rather odd parents and her bother Liam (whom she adores) in magnificent home in a walled city reserved for GAPs outside Los Angeles. Hers is a charmed life filled with luxury and ease. She couldn't be happier. That is until Liam disappears under mysterious circumstances. 

When the authorities - including her parents - refuse to help her trace him, she leaves the safety of her world and heads for the 'Outside' - Los Angeles - to find her own answers. Her trail leads her to Noah. 

Noah's an ordinary guy - a natural - who has every reason in the world to despise GAPs.
Noah's mother works as a servant in Zoe's home, but ill health (something a GAP hardly ever experiences) means that Noah sometimes comes in to do her job, cleaning up after Zoe and her family. He and his mother are treated with ill-concealed contempt by Zoe's parents.

I liked Noah a lot, but I do have a minor gripe about him: his name. Poor guy. Noah is definitely flavour of the month for many YA authors. It really is time they dipped back into the baby name book for some original ideas. Even though it was obvious Lee Strauss was looking for Biblical name for him, she could really have something less hackneyed. Noah deserved something better. And in fact I could say the same about Zoe. Her name is almost a YA fixture. Okay, whinge over . . . back to Perception.  

When Noah isn't helping his mum keep her job, he's an activist fighting against all genetic engineering. He therefore has little reason to help Zoe find Liam - especially when it comes to light that Liam's working on a radical genetic engineering project. Still, the price Zoe offers to pay is right, so he agrees. Don't think Noah's mercenary. He isn't. In fact, he doesn't have a bad bone in his body. That is what makes him so likeable. And once the love took over, he repeatedly risked his life for nary a dime. I was really rooting for him.

But as he and Zoe follow the trail of clues left by Liam, their worlds are turned upside down. 
Very soon Noah finds himself on the run, hunted by powerful, ruthless men who will stop at nothing to silence him forever. Forbidden by her parents to see Noah, Zoe is forced to undergo a 'fix' (can't tell you what, you'll have to read the book to find out) which her family hope will stop her rebellious truth seeking. 
This 'fix' leaves Noah seriously conflicted. Torn between his love for Zoe and the need to be a law-abiding citizen, he makes a moral choice, leading to an exciting - heart-stopping, in fact - twist at the end of the book.


I was really impressed by Perception. 
The writing is lovely. Fast paced, but at the same time descriptive enough without being weighed down with pages and pages of gush. I also liked that it is divided into two parts - the first section is seen through Zoe's eyes. Part two is narrated by Noah, and that adds an interesting depth to the story.


How many stars? 
Definitely four.  So if you love a good Sci-Fi romance, this one won't disappoint.

Will I read the sequel? 
You bet, I will. 

 Volition is already available (Goodreads)


Now I have something special for us all . . . 

Welcome to Lee Strauss, so glad to have you on my blog today. I asked Lee some questions which she kindly answered below:


Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you're not writing?
I’m married with four grown children and live part time in British Columbia, Canada and part time in Germany. When I’m not writing, I read, hike, do yoga, and hang out with friends and family.

Lee Strauss is a pen name. Can you tell us how that came about?
After I’d completed the Clockwise Series books and Seaweed, I realized that I had created a brand with my name Elle Strauss. The readers of those books expect something geared to the younger YA crowd, in the G – PG rating. I knew I’d be adding to that brand with my Love, Tink Series and when I decided to write and publish books geared toward an older crowd, I didn’t feel right labeling them with the Elle Strauss name. That’s when I decided to use Lee Strauss for anything I would give a PG13 rating or higher. I don’t try to keep it a secret that both names are me, and I list Elle Strauss as the author of my Lee Strauss books, too, just so my readers can find me. But I want to make sure they know what kind of book they’re buying.

What is your favorite scene or quote (spoiler-free)?
In PERCEPTION, I like the scene on the bus, where it’s too crowded for them to sit and they’re pressed close together, standing. They’re falling in love but both resisting it so hard! J

Is there a special message in your novel you want to communicate to your readers?
The theme in PERCEPTION is in the title. How we easily misjudge people, mistrust them because they’re different from us, or we’re raised to dislike them. Our perception of people and situations are often wrong or misguided. Noah and Zoe’s perceptions of each other and the world they live in change radically as the book progresses.

How do your characters communicate with you?
So much discovery happens in the writing. Not only plot but character development. I go in thinking of a character in a certain way and by the end of the rough draft, he or she is almost always different that what I thought going in. So I guess they talk to me as the story unfolds.

How did your characters tell you their names?
I chose Noah and Zoe as names for the main characters because one of the themes in PERCEPTION is the desire and pursuit of longer/eternal life. Zoe is Greek for the word life, and Noah is the character in the bible whose life span was shortened by God to 120 years.
(So that explains my whine about Zoe and Noah's name :-) )

Did your characters teach you anything when writing their story? If so, what was it?
I don’t know if they taught me any, so much as they reminded me of things. Like don’t take life for granted; live each day, don’t just let it tick by; always tell the people I love, that I love them; anyone can change, for better or worse, but we have the choice and we can be better if we want to.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
At the risk of sounding cliché, read a lot, write a lot, study your craft, take risks, do new things.

Who is your favorite book boyfriend?
My favorite book boyfriend is usually the hero of whatever book I’m reading. I just finished FLAT OUT LOVE by Jessica Park, and so I’m going to say….Finn. J

Where can your readers befriend you? Blog? Facebook? Twitter? Goodreads? Links, please.
@elle_strauss

I only send emails to announce a new release or promotion. No spam – I promise. J

You can find links to Perception here:

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Thanks to Elle for the EBook copies of Perception.

Cheers
Gwynn

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

WWW: 29 May 2013


What have you just read? What are you reading now? What do you plan to read next?  These are the questions asked by MizB at Should Be Reading So play along . . .  tell me what you've been up to, or leave a link and I'll visit.



1. What have you just read? 

I've had a busy week, but I still got in a few reads  . . .


The Elite (Goodreads)
Okay, this wasn't rocket science, but it was fun and that's all I was looking for on the day. 
And who could not love that dress? Review to follow over the weekend.

Perception (Goodreads)
Wow. Awesome ride.
I really enjoyed this sci-fi/mystery/romance.
My review is coming tomorrow along with an author's interview -yah! my first - and a giveaway. Check back tomorrow because you don't want to miss this book.


Ender's World (Goodreads)
Loved this one. Read my review here

What am I reading now?

My Wolf's Bane (Goodreads)
Yet another book that doesn't take itself too seriously. Just what I need now. Having fun reading it.
Review next week probably.

What will I read next?

This is where it gets tough. I'm dithering between . . . 


Shades of Earth (Goodreads) I LOVE the Across The Universe Series. Been dying for this one.
  Shiver (Goodreads) This has been on my TBR for ages.  
Touch (Goodreads) I'm really excited for this series. And he's so hot, so what's not to like?


What do you think? Which should I read next?

Thanks for visiting. Leave your details and I'll call back.

Cheers
Gwynn

Monday, 27 May 2013

Ender's World edited by Orson Scott Card

Have you ever heard the rather disparaging English (as in UK) phrase 'to be an Anorak'? 
No.
I didn't think so, seeing as most of my readers come from the USA and Russia. So let me explain:

An anorak is a person - usually male - who, while dressed in an anorak to protect him from the foul English weather, spends all his spare time sitting at the end of the runway at his local airport watching and noting - in painstaking detail - the comings and goings of all the airplanes. He then tells his friends (those who still have friends) about his finds, quoting registration numbers, engine types and each flight's punctuality. A thoroughly anal activity. 

I share this with you because I'm an Ender's Game Anorak. (Review here)

I have to be. I mean who else would have squealed with delight on seeing a book with the word Ender in the title on Netgalley? And then, without bothering to read what it was about pounced on the mouse, clicked the request button, said a quick prayer that I'd be approved, all in less time than it takes most people to sneeze. At that point I started reaching for my Anorak.

But the final confirmation of my Anorak status came when I downloaded the ARC of Ender's World (Amazon) onto my Kindle. It was only then that I discovered to my absolute delight that it's actually a book of essays about Ender and his world written by . . .  yes, you guessed it! Other Ender Anoraks!


How fantastic is that! A whole book devoted to reading about how amazing Ender Wiggin is, what a natural born leader he is, how he fits into the Jungian hero mold, all the while being the classic Hero With A Thousand Faces. There is even a chapter extolling the value of him being short! Did you know most successful people are below average height? I didn't either.

Finally, if that wasn't enough magic, there are also pages and pages devoted to genuine Q&A with Orson Scott Card. For an Anorka, what could be more amazing than getting into OSC's mind, seeing his motivations and the depth of his knowledge of his Enderverse?

Enderverse - I love that word!

And you know what else, if that had been all this book was about, I would have been a very satisfied reader.

But there was more. A lot more. As a writer, I learned so much as the contributing authors - bestsellers in their own rights like Neal Shusterman, Janis Ian and Aaron Johnston - dissected Ender's Game, exposing the nuances of OSC writing. For me, this was a real bonus. If you're a writer - even if you don't write Sci-Fi - it will be well worthwhile reading this book, because you will come away with a new set of insights into our art.

So how many stars? 

Definitely four! I loved it and am grateful to the publisher for giving me the ARC to review. So to my fellow Anoraks out there, Ender's World is not to be missed.

cheers
Gwynn






Saturday, 25 May 2013

Stacking the Shelves: 24 May 2013


Apart from the fact that I like boasting about my new books, one of the reasons I love this meme is that I get to see what's new out there. It's also a chance to chat to other bloggers. So thanks to Tynga for hosting.

I've bought and begged quite a few new books since I did my last SS, so here goes . . .

BOUGHT
The Elite (Goodreads)
I was so excited to read this, but my daughter Erin got her hands on it first and she wasn't that impressed. It put me off a bit. Still, maybe next week I can squeeze it in between other reads.

Shiver (Goodreads)
I've been dying to read this for ages. Can't wait. Nothing like a good wolf paranormal to get the hormones pumping.

Shades of Earth (Goodreads)
I LOVED the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis and this, the third book, has just been released. Can't wait to dive in.

BEGGED

I saw some intriguing titles of Netgalley, which I just had to get my paws on.
Happily, I was approved for . . .

Outcast
Pub Date:

After six years of “angels” coming out of the sky and taking people from her town, 16-year-old Riley Carver has just about had it living with the constant fear. When one decides to terrorize her in her own backyard, it’s the final straw. She takes her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing. So it’s dead. Or … not? In place of the creature she shot, is a guy. A really hot guy.  A really hot alive and breathing guy.  Oh, and he’s totally naked.
Not sure what to do, she drags his unconscious body to the tool shed and ties him up. After all, he’s an angel and they have tricks. When he regains consciousness she’s all set to interrogate him about why the angels come to her town, and how to get back her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Chris, who was taken the year before. But it turns out the naked guy in her shed is just as confused about everything as she is.
He thinks it’s 1956.
Set in the deep south, OUTCAST is a story of love, trust, and coming of age. It’s also a story about the supernatural, a girl with a strange sense of humor who’s got wicked aim, a greaser from the 50’s, and an army of misfits coming together for one purpose: To kick some serious angel ass.

It sounds like fun. I hope to get a review up as close to the release date as possible.

When in Paris (Goodreads)
Okay, I must admit that the cover does not do it for me. Not at all. I'm just not a smoochy cover kind of girl. But who can resist a title called When in Paris? This looks like a fun love story, so I'm looking forward to tucking it in between some heavier reads.

Dragonwitch (Goodreads)
The publisher, Bethany House Publishers, offered me this out the blue, and I snatched it with both greedy little hands. I mean look at that cover!!!! I'm really intrigued to read it.

So, like all book bloggers, my shelf runneth o'er . . .

I would love to see what you got this week, so leave a link and I'll be sure to drop by.

cheers
Gwynn


Friday, 24 May 2013

Frivolous Friday: Things I Love About Africa

It's weekend! And it couldn't come soon enough!

As promised in my last Frivolous Friday post, I'm focusing on an African positive today. 

One of the things I love about this continent are the legends. Trust me, there is a supernatural explanation for just about everything. 

I also love African trees, especially when they come with a legend attached. 

So my all-time favourite tree happens to the incredible Baobab. 


Andrew took this on the Makadikgadi Salt Pan in Botswana


The San people (used to be called Bushmen, but that's now politically incorrect) have a wonderful story about how the Baobab came to be. It goes like this . . . 

Long, long ago when the Creator made the Kalahari, he planted the Baobab tree in a prime spot next to a lake. At first the tree was very happy, at least until the incessant wind stopped and it caught a glimpse of itself in the water.

Shocked by its obese trunk, insignificant flowers and lack of foliage, it immediately demanded that The Creator get back on the job and it give it a makeover.

The Creator poked his head out from behind a cloud and asked if the hippo was beautiful? (No) Or if the hyena had a pretty voice? (Definitely not) So why then should the Baobab be worried about something as shallow as looks?

Still the the Baobab whinged. And whinged.

Finally, in a fit of pique, The Creator grabbed it by the trunk, ripped it out the ground and flung it into the most desolate corner of the Kalahari. It landed on its head with its roots in the air and there it has stayed forever.

Looking at the tree you can see where the San got that idea from.

Another story has it that The Creator gave each animal its own tree. The Baobab was given to the hyena. Disgusted with the fat, ugly offering, the hyena yanked it out the ground and turned it on its head.

Fun, these stories, aren't they?

But for all that the Baobab may look a bit odd, it's a very valuable tree. The bark is used for making cloth and rope, the locals eat the leaves and the seed pods, which are stuffed with Vitamin C. A bit like a camel, the fleshy pulp in the trunk also carries water, which can be bled in times of drought. There is even a huge Baobab that has been hollowed out and is used for a pub!

However, none of these explain my love for this tree. My reason are more simple. Baobab trees are always found in desolate locations, far from human settlement, and I love being in the wilderness.



I will definitely miss Baobabs when I arrive in England. So, to fill the gap, I asked a friend to make me my very own tree to take with me. He's a street artist and he makes and sell objects like this . . .



This wire tree will occupy pride of place in my new home in Oxford, reminding me always of what I left behind in Africa.

Enjoy your weekend. Be safe. Have fun. And read lots. I know I plan to.

cheers
Gwynn
As usual drop by an see what Elisa has up for her FF.






Wednesday, 22 May 2013

WWW: 22 May



My favourite meme! Thanks to MizB at Should Be Reading for hosting. As usual she asks three questions:


1. What have you finished reading?

  
The Goddess Test (Goodreads)
Ho-hum. Only one word to describe this book: horrible. 
See my review here.

 Dare You To (Goodreads)
Now this one was amazing. Definitely a must read. See my review here.


2. What are you currently reading?

 Ender's World
I'm still savouring this book. Review to come on the weekend.
 
Perception (Goodreads)
Just started this.  Thus far it's well written and intriguing.


3. What am I reading next?

I'm not sure, but I'm gravitating between . . .

Pathfinder (Goodreads)
I've read this Sci-Fi High Fantasy (Yes, weird genre mix, isn't it?) before and I loved it. Thinking of reading it again.

Or Something new . . .

Falling Kingdoms (Goodreads)
I love the cover and the premise of this. 

So what do you think, which should I read?
  And what about you? What are you reading?
Please leave a link or a comment and I will return the favour.

Cheers
Gwynn

Review: Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

On behalf of all the Greek gods everywhere, I protests! 
Vehemently. 

And if I were Hades, I would whistle up my three-headed dog, leap into my chariot, scream across the River Styx and come and smite Aimee Carter for daring to malign my name by association with Henry (Henry!!!), so-called hero of this book.

The book in question?


 
The Goddess Test (Goodreads)

Regular readers to my blog will know that I don't slam books. In fact, I make a point of trying to find positive things about every book I review. This time however, words fail me. Still, I will try . . . 

Find the positives. 
Ho-hum . . . Rubs chin . . .  
Ah! Light bulb moment. 

Kate, the heroine, is a devoted nurse to her dying mother. Yes, we'll go with that. But she is also so guilt-ridden as to make her pathetic. Almost as pathetic as the love interest Henry, AKA Hades. But we will get on to him in a minute. 

So back to Kate. Let me explain: If a so-called friend (Ava) invites you to a party, drives you into the bush to said party, only for you to discover that it's all a lie - a ploy to get you on your own so the so-called friend can abandon you in the wilds - would you feel responsible/guilty when said friend cracks her head open on a rock and dies? No, of course not. No normal person would. 

But Kate now, she's different. I mean, if she hadn't moved to Eden, hadn't met Ava, hadn't spoken once in passing to Ava's boyfriend, hadn't agreed to accept the party invitation, then Ava would never have needed to dump her in the first place, and then Ava would never have cracked her head open on the rock and died. So it's all Kate's fault. Logical, right? 

Wrong. But that doesn't stop Kate from trading away half her life to Henry in-exchange for resuscitating Ava. 

Yes, Kate and Henry are relieving the Hades and Persephone story, but with a modern-day twist. 

Now I'm all for kindness and doing a good turn, but really, this is just ridiculous. And it didn't stop there. Kate carries such a burden of guilt, I swear she begrudges herself the oxygen she breaths. I honestly can't remember when last I found a heroine to be so pathetic.

Pathetic, that word again.

And then there's Henry. *Eye Roll* I won't debase Hades again by referring to him in the same breath as his namesake Henry. Just know that Hades was not - and never will be - a hot teenage immortal. But here in The Goddess Test, our Henry is gorgeous (of course), tortured (obviously) and only about eighteen years old. (Does the name Edward Cullen ring any bells?) He is also pathetic. 

I think Carter was trying to put the pants on the wimpy Kate by making her the (supposedly) tough one, the seducer of the god, which is why she made Henry so diffident and, dare I say it, so useless. As a ploy, it was an epic fail. 

Which brings me to the love.

There are some authors who know how to write love (Katie McGarry and Stephenie Meyer spring to mind) They can take the simplest moments and create sizzling romance out of them. Carter, I'm afraid, isn't one of those authors. Not once did my heartstrings tug, not once did I feel the slightest tingle, or the vaguest flutter of butterfly wings. The love in this book is about as dead as the folk living in Hades' Underworld.

And speaking of the Underworld, what about the other Greek gods? 

Yes, they're all represented here. Ah, another positive! I have to give Aimee Carter credit for an interesting twist at the end of the book. But, yet again, if you showed Zeus, or Poseidon, or Athene their supposed look-a-likes in The Goddess Test, they would, in Kate's words, 'turn you into a pile of ash'. Carter's gods are about as unbelievable and as unimpressive as a photocopied banknote.

So, I think you can gather that I didn't go for The Goddess Test in a big way, and I definitely won't be reading the sequel, even though I have it sitting on my bookshelf. I had my daughters in mind when I bought these books, but knowing their tastes, I think I'll just frogmarch these two down to the book exchange.

Stars? 

Don't ask. We in the southern hemisphere have a cosmic phenomenon called The Coal Sack, (a dark patch of sky near the Southern Cross), so named for the total lack of observable stars. Maybe that would be my rating . . . one miserable coal sack.

I know many of you will disagree with my review. Please don't be shy to comment and tell me why you think I've got it all wrong.

Cheers
Gwynn


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry


I really enjoyed Katie McGarry's first book Pushing The Limits (Goodreads),  so when I saw Dare You To (Goodreads) on Netgalley I had to request a copy. Thanks to Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read it. It certainly did not disappoint and I'm now aching to read Crash into You (Goodreads), the next in the PTL series. (This is Isaiah moment in the sun!)

In Pushing The Limits we're introduced to Beth, a hardcore tough girl with drug problems and trust issues. To be honest, I didn't like her much, but not having had the easiest teen years myself, I understand it's often the most vulnerable kids who use the toughest shells to protect themselves. Beth definitely fits into this category.

Once a beautiful little blonde angel who loved pink ribbons, she now hides behind the F-word (strings of them), dyed black hair, and ripped clothes that reveal more than they cover. Her idea of a hot night out is smoking pot with her best friend Isaiah. On the face of it, she's definitely the kind of girl my mother tried to warn me against. Hell, she's the kind of girl I now warn my own kids about. 

But that is not all there is to Beth. Underneath all that venom, hate and insecurity, she's loyal (to a fault), brave and has heart the size of a house. Her entire existence revolves around protecting her mother from a particularly foul, abusive boyfriend. Beth will trade anything - including her own life if necessary - for her mother. It's due to that obsessive loyalty that Beth's uncle Scott rips her away from her mom, taking her to live with him. Like all defiant teenagers Beth spends the rest of the novel trying to get back. Of course, Beth doesn't see any of these amazing attributes in herself. As far as she's concerned, she's a total failure - a loser of note. It took Ryan to get her to see her worth and to clean up her act.

Ryan! What a great guy. He really grew on me, developing from a fairly shallow teen hottie to a man who is prepared to stand for what he believes. I really liked his character development. He too lives a double life. As far as everyone knows, he's Mr Perfect, the town golden boy headed to the baseball majors after high school. Little do they know he's carrying his own secret burdens. I so enjoyed watching him grapple with his issues, finally stepping up to the plate to claim his own life.

He and Beth meet over a dare - hence the name of the book. What follows is a roller coaster ride of a love story. Katie McGarry - the queen of teenage angst - definitely knows how to get the reader's toes tingling as she builds the romantic tension between her characters. 

But if Dare You To had just been a hot romance it would not have hit it with me. Like PTL, there is so much more to this story. McGarry spares no punches as she takes us deep into the heart of Beth's sordid past with her mother. Be warned, this book has it all: teen sex, homosexuality, homophobia, drugs, violence, bad language, teen drinking and prostitution. Meaty concepts for Young Adult, so this is definitely more of a New Adult read, but the book would be a lesser story without them. Each of these add a necessary layer, helping the characters grow, developing a believable love without the slightest taint of the insta-variety so common in YA fiction. 

One of the best parts of the story was watching the 'true' Beth emerge from her dark shell. That was truly heart-warming, proving yet again that we should not make snap judgements about people until we truly understand what drives them. 

So if you love gritty romances with great characters and a heart-stopping plot, you cannot miss Dare You To.

My only real criticisms relate to the writing style. At times I found it a bit disjointed, with strange jumps that pulled me out the story and left me wondering what was going on. It could be that the problems were just in the ARC and that they have been sorted out. I certainly hope so, because it was enough to rob the book of a star.

So talking of stars . . . how many? Four tingling heart throbs.

Cheers
Gwynn


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Review: Trail of Bones by Chris Salisbury


“No mercy, No rules – Welcome to the Trail of Bones!”

Don't you hate it when you read a book you know is good, very good in fact, but you don't enjoy it? 
I do. I hate it so much because I know neither the book nor the author deserve my condemnation.  That's what happened to me with Trail of Bones

But before you think, okay, I won't bother with this, let me put my review into perspective. 

I felt the same way about The Hunger Games. Brilliant book. Amazing characters. Stayed up all night to read it. Imaginative plot. Wall-to-wall action. Felt I needed therapy afterwards. Trail of Bones checked every single one of those boxes. I even think it was better written than The Hunger Games.

So what went wrong? 

The answer is simple. I felt too much for the characters. I've told you all before, I'm a total wuss. Because I became so attached to Magnus and Kelor, I didn't want to see them suffer, and trust me, in this book they suffer. Big Time. So perhaps I was the wrong person to review this . .  

Maybe now would be a good time to tell you a little of the plot.  

Trail of Bones follows the tale of two amazingly real animals (in this fantasy world people and animals can talk to each other). The first (and the one I liked the most) is Magnus. He's the runt of a litter of Shade Wolves who wants nothing more than to be a loyal, strong member of the pack. But when an ancient enemy threatens his friends and family, he faces a choice which tears him from all he’s known and loved.

The other hero is Kelor. A giant panther born in captivity, Kelor knows nothing but suffering and loss. He struggles to find his place in a world of terror where he battles to protect his family without succumbing to the darkness lurking inside him. I blew hot and cold about Kelor. Sometimes his arrogance really irritated me, but at other times, I felt so much love and compassion for him. In the end, he came out tops. I have great hopes for him in the sequel.

Anyway, back to the plot. 

Magnus and Kelor fall captive to a really vile man named Warden. (He makes Snow from The Hunger Games look like a nice guy.) Totally without scruples, Warden and his sidekick, Korwin, an equally horrible elf, put together a roadshow - the battle of the beasts known as ‘The Trail of Bones’ - in which Magnus and Kelor are forced to fight to the death against a string of other enslaved animals and humans. 

Sounds a bit Hunger Games-ish, right? It is. 

Except in Trail of Bones the bodies of the dead are used for a magical ritual . . . can't say more, you have to read the book to get the highly imaginative details. And yes, this book is imaginative. That - and it's characters - is one of it's great strengths. Pity about the cruelty . . . I will tell you though that this is the first in a series about Magnus and Kelor. That's a clue to the ending . . .  

Maybe I can end my review by saying there was so much that was fantastic about this book that I wish I could just come out and say I loved it. 
 
But I can't. Still, please don't let my review put you off. You may have a stronger stomach than I do and you would miss something really amazing by not reading it. 

Stars? 

Three blood-stained panthers who can take on the world and win.

Like all of Kathy's blog tours (I Am A Reader, Not A Writer) there is a GIVEAWAY.  
Yah! 
As usual, you can win $25 Amazon Gift Card or the equivalent in PayPal cash. Don't be shy.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

cheers
Gwynn 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Frivolous Friday: Things I Hate About Africa

Happy Weekend! I Hope you have something fun planned. 

In my last Frivolous Friday post, I said I'd be focusing on all the things I love and hate about living in Africa. This week I look at a negative . . .

In a word:

I'm ashamed to say that parts of my homeland South Africa have the dubious honour of being known as the rape and murder capital of the world. Lovely.

Sadly, crime is not just limited to the criminals. Too many of our cops, business leaders and government officials are part of it too, a scenario summed up beautifully in this joke I found on my Facebook feed. I hope you don't have to be an South African to understand it. 

Well, here goes . . . 

Zolani, Sipho, Andiswa and Zakele were cruising down the highway in a flashy red BMW when they spotted a roadblock. With a sigh, Zolani, who was driving, stopped. 

The metro cop on duty sauntered up to the car window and said, "Congratulations! Because you're wearing your seat belts, you've just won R5,000 in the Arrive Alive safety competition."
Zolani could hardly believe his luck."What are you going to do with your cash?" asked the cop.


"Eish! I'm going to get a driver's license," Zolani answered.


"Aauw!"
yelled Sipho from the passenger seat. "Please sir, don't listen to him. He always tries to be smart when he's drunk!"

With all this noise, Andiswa woke up in the back seat. He took one look at the cop and moaned, "Yoh! Guys, I told you, stealing the BMW was a bad, bad idea. We should have taken the red Ford! But you are always so cleva!"


At that moment, they heard a  knock coming from the trunk and Zakele's voice called out: "Are we over the border yet?"

The cop rubbed his hands together, saying, "Okay, my brothers. How are we sharing this R5,000?"


Jokes apart, crime is not funny. 

For the last twenty years we've adapted to living in a country where our house is surrounded by six foot walls, razor wire and electric fences. We have even got used to setting the burglar alarm every night before bed. That alarm is linked to a rapid response company who will send out armed guards to rescue us if the criminals decide it's our turn to be targeted for face makeovers and wealth redistribution. All this we have coped with and accepted for years - crazy, hey? But government corruption is something new and insidious that one cannot fight with alarm systems and armed guards. Corruption destroys the very fabric of society (or what's left of it), causing citizens to loose hope and business to grind to a stop. Everyone suffers.

So crime is of the things I hate about living on a continent plagued with grinding poverty and unscrupulous, avaricious leaders who do little or nothing to lift the prospects of the masses. It's a major reason we're moving to the UK. 

Next Friday I promise to post something positive. Until then, have a magical week.

cheers
Gwynn
PS. As usual, don't forget to check in with Elisa to see what she's doing this Friday.






Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Blog Tour: Journey of Promise by Vickie Hall

Welcome to my stop on the Journey of Promise Blog Tour. (Goodreads)

I don't usually sprout about my religion on my blog - I believe  actions speak louder than words - but I decided to sign up for this blog tour because I have great admiration for the early pioneers who sacrificed so much to lay the foundations of my religion. If it had not been for them, then it's unlikely that those clean-cut missionaries boys - or rather, in my case, girls  - would ever have made it to my shores. My life, my values, my goals and my beliefs have all been shaped by that chance meeting. I am who I am today thanks to what I believe.

So, with that little sermon behind us. on to the tour . . .

This is the second book in a series about a family of converts to the LDS church. Richard and Leah Kenyon, along with family and friends, leave their beloved homeland of Wales in 1849 to immigrate to Zion. For the uninitiated, Zion is another name for Salt Lake City - the mothership of the LDS faith. With great sacrifice and faith they prepare for their journey, but are unsuspecting of the exacting toll asked of the Atlantic Ocean and the mighty Mississippi. 

As part of the tour, I'm posting two excerpts from Vicki Hall's Book:

                                                       Excerpt 1 from Journey of Promise:

          Her heart thudded in her chest as she turned and walked up the gangway. Richard paused and looked back to say something to the Saints, but she didn’t stop to listen, making her way onto the ship. She stood on the deck of the steamer as the autumn breezes blew cool and damp off Cardiff Bay. Her heart knotted as she looked out over the pier, hoping against hope that her mother might come to say good-bye. I don’t want to leave . . . I can’t . . . this is home . . .

            She pressed her lips together and choked back tears as her eyes scanned the fringes of her native village. Her gaze rose to the hills, still green, to the sky awash in clouds, then down to the surging bay. The smell of briny water filled her nostrils and the call of seabirds cried overhead. Leah closed her eyes, attempting to etch the pictures in her mind, and called upon her memory to remember Wales and never forget.

            Richard slid his arm around Leah’s shoulders. “ ’Tis hard, I know,” he said as if he could read her mind.

            His touch gave her a sense of reassurance. She could feel his strength lending itself to her, lifting and carrying her beyond doubt. Richard kissed her temple and held her as the ropes were loosed from the moorings. She turned to him, her eyes burning into his. “Let me look at you, Richard.Let me look to you and our future. I cannot bear to watch us leave . . .”

            She buried her face against his chest. Richard encircled his wife and held her as the steamer pulled away.

                                                           Excerpt 2 from Journey of Promise:

             Leah peered inside the box of supplies and saw a chunk of beef infested with maggots. “Who would do this? And why?”

            “We need that ham,” Claire said. “We have mouths to feed. What are we goin’ to do?”

            Leah reached inside the box and snagged the meat in her bare hand. “I’m getting’ our ham back.”

            “What are you—” Claire watched as her sister turned and stormed up the companionway.

            Leah fumed all the way to the forecastle, to the captain’s quarters. She wasn’t about to let this assault on her family go without a fight. She raised her hand to knock on the captain’s door but was stopped by Franklin. “You can’t go in there,” he barked, barring the way.

            “Mr. Franklin,” she said, her voice tinged with anger, “I need to see the captain.”

            Franklin glowered as Leah. “The captain’s a busy man. What do you want?”

            Leah shoved the spoiled maggot-filled meat toward his face. “Someone aboard ship stole our ham and left thisin its place! I want the captain to do somethin’ about it!”

            Franklin lowered her arm with his hand, repulsed by the rancid beef. “The captain can do nothin’ about it,” he said. His eyes narrowed. “And for all I know, you might be lookin’ to trade this spoiled meat for someone’s ham you’d claim as your own.”

            “How dare you accuse me of such a thing,” she said, stamping her foot. “I’ve come to have things made right and you treat me as if I’m the thief!”

            Franklin smirked and clasped his hands behind his back. “See it however you want,” he said. “The captain won’t be disturbed over it. Maybe you should be thankful for what you have and eat it.”

            This matter was beyond that of just stealing. It was a threat to her family’s condition—a deprivation of the food that cost them so dearly, the very nourishment they needed to survive the coming weeks. Leah’s anger exploded as she pushed the rotted meat into Franklin’s smug face. “You eat it!” She spun and charged off.

Now for the giveaway! You can win $25 Amazon Gift Card or the equivalent in PayPal cash. Good luck.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


cheers
Gwynn

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