Friday, April 29, 2011

Blog Hop: Follow Friday (6)

Welcome to Friday Follow & Blog Hop Friday!

Tarryn is off in the mountains getting some much needed R 'n R (Reading and Reviewing).  I am wrapped up in a huge blanket trying to type the numbness out of my fingers.  It's Freezing in South Africa, I am not complaining - More reading time... but I just wish that 1) the dead ache of my body would thaw the moment I woke up, 2) I would have the need to throw coffee on my face to smile, 3) I wouldn't have to read with gloves on 4) I could sit outside without catching anything that would kill me...
Now for the Blog Hop/Follow Friday

"Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?"

Wow! So many to choose from but I think I could try narrow it down...

Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home (See the Blurb here)

Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche (See the Blurb here)

Cassandra Clare's City of Fallen Angels (See the Blurb here)

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's Language of Flowers (See the Blurb here)

 If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

*Runs screaming away from computer at thought of ONLY choosing 5 books*
Ok if I have to be serious...
I know Tarryn would rather leave naked (as would I) to make room for more books.  I would, without hesitation, would leave food behind...

But among the books we would take with us (Plus the others we would sneak in our underwear) would be...

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Atonement by Ian McEwan
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Collection of Jane Austen

*Oh Gosh! Where to end...*
I am just going to put this question as "This is against my Book Reading Religion"

So from the depths of the Mountains and the depths of the blankets, we wish you a fabulous weekend and for those in South Africa a long, relaxing and reading filled Worker's Day...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (11) Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:
Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

International best-selling thriller writer Jeffery Deaver has written a brand new James Bond novel. Commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate, Carte Blanche will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 26 May, a few days before Ian Fleming's birthday.

The plot of Deaver's eagerly anticipated Bond novel is a closely guarded secret until publication. However, it has been revealed that it takes place in the present day and the story occurs over a short period of time. CARTE BLANCHE finds Bond in three or four exotic locations around the globe, one of which is Dubai.

Deaver comments, 'In the world of espionage, giving an agent carte blanche on a mission comes with an enormous amount of trust and constantly tests both personal and professional judgement. Part of the nonstop suspense in the novel is the looming question of what is acceptable in matters of national and international security. Are there lines that even James Bond should not cross?'

He continues, 'The novel will maintain the persona of James Bond as Fleming created him and the unique tone the author brought to his books, while incorporating my own literary trademarks: detailed research, fast pacing and surprise twists.'

Why are we waiting for it?

James Bond is back!  That is all we need to tell you.  He is back with Deaver in the driving seat - sit back, Relax and Enjoy the ride...

What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, April 25, 2011

What we have coming up (In My Mailbox)...

In my mailbox is meme hosted by Kristi The Story Siren.
Its a chance to brag, and show other bookies the goodies we got, and what we're reading.

For Review

Eleven by Mark Watson

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

What was in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter Reading

There is nothing but chocolate around – that means, for Tarryn & I anyway, 11 days of pure uninterrupted sleep and reading time!

We have waited for this time off like children do a day to Gold Reef City. Huge Calendars were erected and massive X’s scratched each day out; ‘Oh Happy Day’ by Aretha Franklin (The Sister Act) played as we lined up to make our marks on these rather massive and imaginary calendars, we would make the mark and would cheer each other on like we had just run a 30 km race.

“Yeah!!! Go Tarryn!” (Let’s not forget the stilted bum jig from Kelly)

“Yeah!!! Go Kelly!” (Macarena from Tarryn)

Without further adieu we present our Easter reading list:

Tarryn (you’re up first)

Alice Bliss by L Harrington

When Alice learns that he father is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Matt Bliss is leaving just as his daughter blossoms into a full-blown teenager. She will learn to drive, shop for a dress for her first dance, and fall in love all while trying to be strong for her mother and take care of her younger sister. Alice wears her dad's shirt every day, even though the scent of him is fading and his phone calls are never long enough. Life continues without him, but nothing can prepare Alice for the day two uniformed officers arrive at their door with news.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Paper Sons and Daughters by Ufrieda Ho

A stowaway hides for long weeks aboard a ship crossing the Indian Ocean. Leaving behind his village and his ancestors, he looks to the gold mountain in Johannesburg as an escape from his bleak life in devastated 1950s China. In South Africa he will become a 'paper son', a literal translation of the phrase used to refer to the illegal immigrants who bought or borrowed new identities from more established Chinese families to avoid detection by the authorities.

He is full of quiet hope for what lies ahead as he sets foot in the Durban docks, but he will never lose the status of a second-class citizen. He is the geel gevaar, the yellow peril in apartheid South Africa, and he soon learns that the streets aren't lined with gold. He can't live where he chooses and won't get the jobs reserved for whites. He becomes a fahfee man, the 'ma-china' of the black townships, running the illegal gambling game so perfectly suited to survival in the rot of South Africa's policies of racial segregation. He is always avoiding the police, always looking to maximise his winnings and always trying to ensure a better life for his wife and four children - until one night in April 1993 when tragedy strikes.

Abandon by Meg Cabot

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

Kelly (Time to get your Read on...)

A pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs by Christina Hopkinson

The mother of two young boys, Mary knows how to get them to behave the way she wants. Now she's designing the spousal equivalent of a star chart and every little thing her husband does wrong will go on it. Though Mary knows you're supposed to reward the good behavior rather than punish the bad, the rules for those in middle age are different than the rules for those not even in middle school...

In THE PILE OF STUFF AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS, Hopkinson pens a hilarious and acutely-observed novel about marriage, motherhood, children, and work. Readers everywhere will find Mary's trials hilariously familiar as they cheer her on in her efforts to balance home, work, children, and a clean bottom stair!

Pigeon English by Stephen Kalman

Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London’s enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience—obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer.Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

Few know the city of Los Angeles the way #1 bestselling author and acclaimed suspense master Jonathan Kellerman does. His thrilling novels of psychological drama and criminal detection make the capital of dreams a living, breathing character in all its glamour and infamy. That storied history of fame, seduction, scandal, and murder looms large in Mystery, as Alex Delaware finds himself drawn into a twisting, shadowy whodunit that’s pure L.A. noir—and vintage Kellerman.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (10) Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

One miscarriage too many spelled the end of Max and Zoe Baxter's marriage. Though the former couple went quite separate ways, their fates remained entangled: After veering into alcoholism, Max is saved in multiple senses by his fundamentalist conversion; Zoe, for her part, finds healing relief in music therapy and the friendship, then romantic love with Vanessa, her counselor. After Zoe and Vanessa, now married, decide to have a baby, they realize that they must join battle with Max, who objects on both religious and financial grounds.

Like her House Rules and several other previous Jodi Picoult novels, Sing You Home grapples with hot button issues. The novel also includes a CD of songs, each matched with a chapter in the book. Perfect for book clubs

Why are we Waiting for it?

There has been nothing but BUZZ about this book and when there is a Buzz, Tarryn & I are there!  Picoult left us wide-mouthed and teary-eyed in My Sisters Keeper (both book and movie) - granted that isn't her newest but still... Books leave imprints on us.  Oh and did we mention that we Met her!!

What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

Display at Exclusive Books The Glen

About the Book:

Another outstanding adventure from one of the world's best loved storytellers
Hazel Bannock is the heir to the Bannock Oil Corp, one of the major oil producers with global reach. While cruising in the Indian Ocean, Hazel's private yacht is hijacked by African pirates. Hazel is not on board at the time, but her nineteen year old daughter, Cayla, is kidnapped and held to ransom. The pirates demand a crippling twenty billion dollar ransom for her release. Complicated political and diplomatic considerations render the civilized major powers incapable of intervening.

When Hazel is given evidence of the horrific torture which Cayla is being subjected to, she calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter. Hector is the owner and operator of Cross Bow Security, the company which is contracted to Bannock Oil to provide all their security. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.

Creative Display at Exclusive Books The Glen

What a read! What an exhausting, breath-taking, gripping read!
A glorious 2 week read that kept me fastened to my chair with a mug of tea halfway to my mouth.

The story opens with Hector Cross, owner and operator of Crossbow Security, a very rugged, arrogant male lead. Hazel Bannock, the heir to Bannock Oil; a global oil producer, is our sultry female lead. While cruising the depths of the Indian Ocean, Hazel’s private yacht is hijacked by Somalian Pirates but Hazel isn’t on board; her daughter Cayla is. Cayla is kidnapped and ransomed. Hazel has no one of power to help her and so she calls on Hector Cross to help her get Cayla to safety. It wouldn’t be Wilbur without the romance, lust and fast-paced action.

I have only ever read one Wilbur Smith, When the Lion Feeds, and I promptly placed it in my TOP 10 BOOKS YOU HAVE TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE. I had such high expectations for his other adventures so I refused to pick another one up thinking I would be sorely disappointed.
Signed copy of Those in Peril
What convinced me to read this one? My Dad, an avid collector of Wilbur since the age of 16, said about Those in Peril (Exact Quote): “Finally, Wilbur is Back Baby!”

The cover of the book says “Taken, Tortured, Ransomed” what it doesn’t say is that “The Reader is Taken, Tortured (in a good way) with cliff hangers and plot twists, and Ransomed from any sort of social life when this books cross their path”.

An incredibly gasp worthy, action-packed, wide-eyed staring, up till all hours, a un-put-down-able read. I made a total of 21 cups of tea and neither of them were finished warm; I was too distracted with sweeping rogues and bombs going off before my eyes.

I love the way Wilbur Smith writes like he is writing a movie, maybe not on purpose, but it sure plays like a fast paced action movie; blaring guns and grenades, catchy one liners and steamy love scenes that left me blushing at the page.

Scene setting is Wilbur’s strong point; the reader is left feeling and smelling the desert sands and harsh conditions Hazel and Hector (and their small force of an army) have to endure.

Those in Peril doesn’t leave behind a fun and kooky cast of characters that hold you to your seat and with each interaction you love or hate them more and more.

My Favourite Quote:

“She took her mobile phone from her pocket of her handbag and switched it on. The legend on the screen read ‘You have 2 missed calls & 1 message’. ‘Do you wish to view your messages?’

She pressed ‘show’

I wonder what my little monkey wants now, she asked herself fondly, and the text appeared.

It was chillingly short and simple:


You think you know Wilbur, think again...
Welcome to Hell on Water.
Display at Exclusive Books The Glen
- Review by Kelly Ansara

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (9) Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence—fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood—and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him. Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London’s enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience—obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer.

Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world.

Why we are waiting for it?

This reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon; a coming of age story that will make us all fall in love with the characters...

Releases April 2011
(Ok so it is out, but who cares, I am still waiting on a wednesday to get it...)

What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Author Interview: Sophie Hannah (part two)

KA: How many times do you re-write/edit or even change your manuscript before you send it to your publisher as final?
SH: My characters are really planned out in my head first and then I will type an official document so I know the characters, the plot and sometimes I fill in the plot as I go along.  Then I go through I with a red pen changing here and there but it is never an entire re-write, more tinkering and improving each sentence.  Then it’s to the editor and she requests changes.  There are 2 main edits but touch wood that my editor never asks for an entire re-write.

TT: How do you feel about your books or any book moving onto a digital platform?
SH: Um, I think, obviously I don’t know. No one knows but if I had to guess, I would say that paper books will always exist. Um, but probably more and more people, especially younger people, will start to read on machines and older people who have grown up with books and who love books will probably still read books. So I would guess that the eventual satiation we will end up with is both; paper book and electronic books. And because that’s so, you know, the whole eBook thing is not going away. When there was first talk about eBooks a lot of people said “ag, it will never catch on”. It has caught on. Everyone  you meet is now "oh, I just bought a Kindle...I’m reading a book on my kindle...” so it’s clearly hit that, so I don’t think there is any point kind of wishing it wasn’t.. That’s one of the most pointless things you can do; is pretend that is the case there is not.  In an ideal world, I’d be in charge of the world (oddly I’m not), I hate eBooks. They’re not books; they’re not as good as real books. I don’t see how they can ever be as good as real books. I know the advantage, you know, you can have, some little thing with 70 000 books on it and if you’re going away for three months, you can just take your little thing and you don’t have to take all those books. I still think that is outweighed by the fact that the experience of reading a book on a machine, for me, can never be the same as reading a book. You know, you’ve got the page you’re reading in front of you at that moment, you haven’t got the whole thing there so the identity of that...
TT: No, It’s quite refreshing actually.
SH: But I mean, do you get it?
TT: Well I personally won’t ever own one. Hard copies romanticise the idea o a book for me. Um, I think it’s true what you say about identity. My Jane Eyre copy is...
SH: Yeah, you look at it and you look at the creases on the cover and you remember when you read it and but for so many people who obviously feel that that is less important to them than having a light suitcase. You know, when people say, you know “aw, you always travel so much. You should get a kindle.” But I don’t need one.  I’ve got a suitcase full of heavy hardbacks. That’s fine. You know, it’s not THAT inconvenient to carry books around with you especially now there are luggage trolleys in airports. What’s the big deal? You’re just carrying some books around with you and if you run out, you go to a book shop and you buy more books.  I do wonder whether part of it is the novelty. You know, everyone wants to have the new gadget. Maybe once the novelty has worn off...

KA: Do you write chapters or scenes that you’ve never been to? Like places that you’ve never been to?
SH: So, like totally imagined?
KA: Yes, like writing about Arabia but you’ve never been there.
SH: Yes, I do but I always like to have something familiar. So I...well, all my books are set in Spilling, which is a fictional down so I’ve never been to it because it doesn’t exist... But when I’m creating it in the book, I’ll use things from other places and you kind of assemble the imaginary from what you know.
TT: If you could’ve been anything but an author what would your choice have been?
SH: Ooh, Lots of things. Um, I would have loved to have been a singer. Love singing. I would sing given any excuse. Um, I would quite like to be an interior designer. I would quite like to, I’m quite interested in alternative therapy so I would quite like to be something like a homeopath, a reflexologist, a reik  keep, you know anything with those kind of new age things where it could all be a load of nonsense. I love all that stuff and I’d quite like to be such a quack at some description. I’d like to be a psychotherapist but I could never be because I’m too bossy.

KA: How critical are you when you are judging your work?
SH: When I’m judging MY work, very, very, very critical. So I’m never happy with anything. At a certain point I think ‘this will have to do’ and then, once the book’s come out, then I might think ‘oh yeah, why was I so worried about it?’ but initially, while I’m writing it, and before I’ve had some feedback from anyone else, I’m very, very critical.  I can read and write the same paragraph or sentence for three days to get it exactly write.  I am a real perfectionist.

TT: Do you ever suffer from Writer’s Block?
SH: Not in terms of ideas. There is always something I want to write about.  I suffer from Writer’s Block every day in a practical sense; I sit down and just really don’t want to start. I’m scared of confronting of how much work there is to be done. So I have half an hour to an hour of kind of “do I really have to do this?” and then I get into it and stop worrying and just get into the story and then I’m really hooked and want to carry on writing. So that’s a kind of writer’s block. But no, I’ve never really struggled with "I don’t know what to write", "I don’t know what to do". I think if I ever got to that pint I would find that I didn’t want to write.
KA: How would you describe the perfect crime novel?
SH: Um, a perfect crime novel is a crime novel that has a brilliant, unpredictable plot so you have to not be able to guess the solution, that’s really important. Um, but also, as well as a really gripping plot, you need proper characters who seem three-dimensional, real and that you care about. You don’t have to like them but you have to be interested in them. And very well-written. So; brilliant plot, brilliant characters, brilliant writing. That’s the perfect crime novel.  And you think there’d be loads but there aren’t that many. ‘Cos that’s what I’m always looking for, but there’s very few that have delivered on all those levels.

TT: You gave a shout quote on a book called Mice by Gordon Reece... How would you describe that type of crime novel?

SH: Mice is a brilliant book.  I mean, that book, I just absolutely loved. And all the way I was thinking ‘why do I love this book so much?’ It’s kind of a fairly ordinary story, you know, It’s not got some amazing twists or some big high-concept thing, It’s just-it’s the sort of story that when you hear about it you think ‘ah yeah, I’m sure that must have been done before’ but it hasn’t. That was a perfect.  I couldn’t have improved on that in any way. Often I’ll read other people’s books and think ‘hmm, what I would have done...’ but with that book I could not have improved on in any way.  Do you like that book? It’s so tense, it really does grip you.

A HUGE thank you to: Elmarie Stodart & Anika Ebrahim  from Jonathan Ball .

Last but not least, Thank you to Sophie Hannah for her amazing willingness to be interviewed and her chilling crime novels (Hodder & Stoughton)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Deadlands by Lily Herne

Deadlands is not currently available outside South Africa, although that should change. Until then, the booklounge in Cape Town will ship internationally. You can email them at

Published by Penguin Books

Click here for Blurb

A fast-paced zombie book, with the inclusion of modern-day societal and political issues. And all set in Cape Town. Who would have thought!

Thank you to Penguin books, in particular Candice Wiggett, for allowing Kelly and I the opportunity to hold a package like we were carrying a new born. One of our first YA book review copies and-better yet-this one is set in South Africa AND written by a South African. The news got even better when Kelly said that I could read it first. In fear that she would soon change her mind and that a battle to the death would ensue, I grasped the book between my hands and walked (i.e. pulled a roadrunner run) back to my desk. Being a Friday afternoon, I vowed that Kelly would have it by Monday, secure that this book promised the reason for cutting into studying time ‘just until the end of this chapter’.

Do you have your cup of coffee ready? Knees up by chin? All lights on? Yes? Good, then you are ready to read this book.

I will admit from the start that I am that person who heard ‘local YA fiction’ and my initial reaction was both one of surprise and “oh dear”. Thankfully-and rightfully-I was proven wrong. Deadlands is a great piece of YA fiction and I personally think it could be used in future school setworks, something similar to The Wave by Todd Strasser. I look at what I have just written and think, ‘What are you writing Tarryn? A book that is about moaning zombies and the eerie Guardians, and (what good YA book would be without) the heroine must have two hunky men who both think she is gorgeous and will kill for her, even with her terribly mean attitude and general anger towards life itself and yet you still think this book would be a good setwork?” But yes, I do.

I mentioned above that this book offers more than just a thrilling read for teens, but also a look into parts of South Africa’s socio-cultural dynamic. As I go along, I will draw in some of the comparisons to modern-day society in South Africa. In a way, this book is the written District 9 meets Avatar, with the thrills of Dawn of the Dead.

The main character, Lele, is a teenager, struggling with the recent death (and ultimate zombification) of her grandmother with whom she had been living from the days of ‘The War’. It is unclear what happened to provoke ‘The War’ and why the zombie situation occurred, but if we were to look at it more closely, the ‘zombification’ of civilians could be seen as conforming to what the government (The Guardians, the supposed ‘saviours’ of those who have survived the zombies) say is the right way forward, dictating how people should act and removing free will and thought from the people, making them merely shells for their propaganda.

Lele is now staying with her father and step-mother and her little brother, Jobe who has stayed a trapped-toddler since The Guardians (in my head, they look like those Dementors from Harry Potter) took him away and brought him back in his mentally and physically ensnared state. Again, a relationship can be made to current South African administration where some government schools have been affected by poor education and lack of teachers, stunting the pupils in their mental growth.

It has been ten years since the war began (starting in 2010 during the World Cup) and small groups are starting to wake up to the fact that maybe there is something more sinister to The Guardians than collecting the dead before they ‘turn’. These people start a group called The ANZ (anyone noticing something here?). This could be viewed as representing the similar uprising of the ANC during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Lele is sent to an exclusive high school, Malema High *cough cough* where she is introduced to the charming and rebellious Thabo, where, of course, there is a strong chemistry between them but at a Lottery Ball (you’ll have to read the book to know what that is about), things go completely off the plan (as one must in a good book) and Lele is taken by The Guardians, with the intention of sending her out to the zombies. SPOILER ALERT: Thankfully, Lele is the heroine and things couldn’t end with her being eaten by the ‘dead alive’, so, to prevent from divulging too much, Lele is sent on a whirlwind of an adventure on the outskirts of the city, including the meeting of Ash, the enigmatic character who, if played in a movie, would probably walk in slow motion and have the stare that would undoubtedly make me (and other females) slowly slide from the cinema chair onto the floor, twitching every now and then.

What YA book would this be without a love conflict, and Lele is torn between Ash and Thabo (I see Team Jacob vs Team Edward t-shirts taking a backseat), but with the impending strength of The Guardians and ‘newbies’ (new zombies), Lele has to battle with more than love if she is to survive.
I could continue drawing on the similarities between what is in the book and what is, what the guardians are and what the government was and is today, but you are not reading this review in the hopes that this will offer you your next English essay topic; this is a review. And so I shall give you that much *insert dramatic speech music, Tarryn lifts fist slowly to the sky, side profile*.

Deadlands is a fantastic YA fiction, and I add one more star simply because it is local. Lily Herne took on this not-so-easy task of writing a book for teens that was about zombies and set in Cape Town. The first of its kind, and Herne did a sterling job. From the first layer, it makes for a fast-paced read and South African readers should enjoy a book that puts Zombies in spots that we know, such as Table Mountain (never looking at the Cape landscape in the same way again). Taking a deeper look, I took pleasure in analysing how parts and characters of the book took on shapes of modern-day South Africa and its social and political structures. I know that I could very well be over-analysing the book, and if that is the case, I still think it is well-worth the Saturday read it will afford anyone who is looking for a YA book with a difference.

Read excerpt

To meet Tarryn in Cape Town (she has since run away, screaming, from Kelly) meet her at the Deadlands book launch

- Review by Tarryn Talbot
Follow Tarryn on Twitter

Monday, April 4, 2011

Author Interview: Sophie Hannah (part one)

Kelly, Sophie Hannah & Tarryn
Picture this:
It is a Wednesday (9th March 2011 to be exact).  Tarryn and I are stuffed in my tiny car on what must have been the hottest day in Africa!  We clambered in to my car; Tarryn leaving the boot open as we drove off, misread the directions and headed towards the cocaine capital of Johannesburg.  You can imagine our sighs of relief when we pulled up to 10 2nd Avenue Houghton...   
The angels sang and the hand of God cleared the way, as he did with the Dead Sea.  This was it!  Our blog was finally making it!  Tarryn and I looked more like we turned up for a dish-washer job more than setting up an interview for our first author interview.  Sleep deprived, we pleaded, begged, crawled on our knees and said “hallelujah! Coffee. Please. Now” when greeted with “What would you like to drink?”. That is when we met Sophie Hannah!  Insert butterflies and stuttering. She extended her hand and said “I am wet!  I had to swim and I just got out the pool – do you mind if I am wet?”  Tarryn looked at me and we just knew; this author would be gracefully funny.  We settled down and Sophie said “I’m going to lay on the couch, will your recorder pick me up?”  We loved her instantly!  She wasn’t overly dressed nor did she have any qualms about questions or photos!  Tarryn and I jumped in head first!
So welcome to it’s a Book Thing’s first author interview!  We hope you like it!
Find the Review of Lasting Damages here
KA:You are mostly known for your “Psychological thriller” novels why & when did you decide to write this particular genre?
SH: I have always loved reading crime fiction and I just found myself drawn to the psychological crime fiction most and so eventually I just thought well I really would like to write books like this.  I had written three other novels which weren’t crime at all, probably because it seemed crime was my favourite genre and I probably would be able to do it. It is like someone you really fancy, he might not fancy you so you go for the slightly less impressive man; it’s that kind of thing but in book terms.  I thought I would never be able to write a crime novel because others are just so good.  One day I thought actually, I had read so many crime novels now, I have read everything and every popular crime novel.  I thought, well I know what works and what doesn’t work, I have to try it.  I got hooked basically, I cannot imagine writing anything else.  It is the one genre I can write the most naturally in. 
TT: There are a few dysfunctional set ups especially Simon & Charlie? Tell us about that...
SH: Simon & Charlie and all the police characters are in all my books so what you have in Lasting Damage is the latest in their lives and because they are going to be in the next book, that is why it isn’t tied up too neatly.  The Main story is based around Connie & Kit, who have a beginning and an end they won’t come back but Simon & Charlie have been going along in all my books and their story goes along and carries on in the next book.  I quite like mixing the two different narrative structures really, within the same book but you are right Simon & Charlie’s relationship is weird & dysfunctional which is something I do maybe more than most crime writers.  The police are trying to figure out if there is a body on this website, if so why? And then has a murder been committed but the police themselves aren’t well adjusted, normal people so they aren’t coming at this at a position of we are the ones who are sorted and you are the ones who aren’t.  In a way Simon & Charlie’s relationship is as problematic as Connie & Kit’s which again makes a good mirror.
TT: When writing a novel do you become attached to your characters?
SH: I certainly become attached to the characters while I am writing the book, of course Simon and Charlie and the characters that have been through each book are the ones I am closest too because I know them so well.  While I was writing Lasting Damage, I was absolutely identifying with Connie.  In a way, Connie is the person I would be if I was in that situation and to a certain extent all the heroines are like that. In that sense I am attached to them but I also get attached to minor characters, the killer in each of my books I can to an extent empathise with or else I wouldn’t be able to write the character and flesh out the motivation.
KA: Who is your favourite character from any of your novels? And Why?
SH: I really like Detective Inspector Proust, who is Charlie & Simon’s Boss, he is not that prominent in this book [Lasting Damages] he is only in one or two scenes but I don’t actually like him – he is a horrible guy but as a character because he is so horrible and he either doesn’t realise it or doesn’t care and that is what makes him a good character to write.  I can write such funny lines for him because he just turns up at a certain point and is just absolutely vile to everybody and actually fun to write especially when things are really tense and full of self doubt, Proust just turns up and insults everyone and wanders off.  I am very attached to him.
TT: Do you base characteristics/habits of your characters on anyone you know?
SH: Occasionally, but I generally don’t base a character on a whole person.  What I do often is use little character traits and tendencies and put a few things together.  The character Simon is partly my husband, partly one of my ex-boyfriends and partly another one of my ex boyfriends.  Occasionally, there is a character based on someone but they never recognise themselves.
KA: How would you describe your writing style?
SH: I can compare my writing to Ruth Rendell and Barbra Vine (Same Person).  I have been compared to Patricia High-Smith, who writes dark psychological thrillers.  I describe it as well-written commercial fiction.  My main aim is to write a story that is as gripping as possible to give the reader no excuse to stop reading the book.
TT: First impressions are big when meeting someone for the first time. Do you think it is equally important with book covers? What do you think of your latest cover?
SH: I love it.  I Love all my covers.  I think they are perfect for giving an accurate insight of what the book is about.  I don’t think anyone would see one of my book covers and say “I didn’t expect this”.  The covers are sinister and they make clear that there isn’t something quite right.  They look like suspense novels but also the images on the cover are very domestic, it is always a room, a staircase, a bathroom.  It gives the impression of sinister “going-on” behind closed doors, which is really what is going on.
KA: Do remember what you were doing when you found your first published novel on a bookstore shelf
SH: When Little Face came out, I was in Leeds city centre and went into Waterstones  and then to the crime section and there was a pile of my books; it was really weird but now I am used to it.  I go into bookstores and my books are always there.  The first time I hovered around to see if anyone had picked it up, which is crazy because in the 5 minutes you are standing there no one will pick it up and you stand there thinking “Oh No! No one is picking up the books!”
KA: Tell us about when you found out you were going to be published
SH: Now that is a good story! My agent at the time didn’t want to write crime fiction they wanted me to write poetry, so after constant changes to the manuscript (short of sending it to Salmon Rushdie), I had had enough of these flamboyant agents and so I wanted to find a surly male.  When I found a monosalabic male and he sent the book to Hodder & Stoughton.  They asked me to come in for an interview (sort of job interview).  I was on the train to the Bath Literary fest for a poetry event, and I kept checking my phone, moving it around to see if there was any message. Eventually, he called and said “Hodder have made an offer” and then the phone lost signal. So I ran out of the carriage and was dangling out the window trying to get signal and he called back and we kept getting cut off for about half an hour.  I am never normally there, but that day I went into this ordinary cafe and my agent called back and said that Hodder had offered more money; double the first offer.  There wasn’t any other day that would compare to that day.
KA: Your novels are incredibly chilling.  Where do you get your inspiration for them?
SH: Everybody always says my books are chilling but to me they aren’t because I am making them up.  For me, it’s me in my pyjama’s sitting making them up.  The inspiration comes from real life.  Well not the murders!  For Lasting Damage we were moving and I became obsessed with property websites, I spent hours looking at the houses and the floor plan.  One night I couldn’t sleep, and my husband was on the brink of sleeping and I thought I will wait till he is sleeping and then tip toe and look at houses on the internet.  I thought this is how someone in one of my books would behave and that is where I got the idea from then I thought what would you do if you saw a dead body?  That is where it came from.
TT: Are there any exciting projects you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
SH: The website has a page called “Work in Progress page” has all the details of the new book called Kind of Cruel.  I wanted to start the novel with a rather intriguing weird situation.  It starts with a woman who goes to a hypnotherapist to help her with her insomnia and while the hypnosis she finds herself saying this strange thing... “Kind Cruel, Kind of Cruel” and the moment she says it she doesn’t know where it came from and when the therapist asks where this comes from.  She goes home and a couple of hours later the police arrive and arrest her for the murder of a woman she has never heard of and the only piece of evidence to the crime are the words “Kind Cruel, Kind of Cruel”....
KA: What has been the “stand-out” moment of your South African tour so far?
SH: One of them would be just staying at this hotel!  There have been many stand-out moments; I have met so many interesting people – that is what makes a really great book tour if you meet different people in makes such a difference especially if you are in a country you haven’t been before and when you meet so many friendly people I could say “I could live here now!”
TT: Do you have any habits when you are working on a novel?
SH: No I don’t really have any habits.  I listen to the rhythm of the sentence in my head so I can’t play music in the background.  I write in my attic when I start writing at 11h30.
KA: What is your favourite book?

SH: The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch, its literary crime novel about ambition.  What is brilliant about the book is that it has everything you could possibly want is in that book.  Amazing BOOK!
KA: What are you reading at the moment?

SH: I haven’t had time to start anything new. I finished Night Waking by Sarah Moss by the pool the other day.  It is brilliant and absolutely perfect!
TT: Do you have any advice for any aspiring South African authors?
SH: You have to able to be objective about your work and take advice when you need to.  Try to write something from start to finish because it’s easier re-write a flawed novel than keep changing/rewriting each chapter
TT: What does a bestselling author have for breakfast?
SH: (Laughs) I hope you mean me? Because I cannot tell you what other authors eat.  My break would be remains of a curry from the night before, Danish left on the counter, cake?  I am a bad eater!  If I am in a restaurant I do make up my nutrition balance from that healthy meal.
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