Monday, September 26, 2011

Dark Poppy’s Demise by S.A Partridge

About the Book
All Jenna wants is for someone to notice her, but all everybody sees is a gawky teenager with an overactive imagination. But she leads a double life. As Dark Poppy, she can be herself. Her online friends see her for who she truly is: a sensitive, creative young woman with a talent for photography. When she receives a friend request from Robert Rose on Facebook, she doesn’t hesitate to start up a friendship.

But then, why shouldn’t she? He’s the hottest guy she’s ever seen; with emerald green eyes that seem to stare right through the computer screen . . .

Dark Poppy’s Demise is S.A. Partridge’s third novel for young people.


The quickest of reads I have had all year! What a fabulous one to start off my YA binge.
Prowling the twitter sphere I found, or more like tw-eavesdropped (that’s Twitter eavesdropped) on two very awesome tweeters and bloggers (S.A Partridge & Tammy February talking about this book. I couldn’t help myself I just went “I Want it now!!” and the rest was history.

As I said before –this book is a quick one, less than 200pgs; with a writing talent behind it that makes me proud to be South African. Sally Partridge named of the Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans, splays a rather scary idea before you, especially if you are a social media addict like myself. Dark Poppy’s Demise has a seemingly simple plot that is brought to life with an ease of description and rather loveable characters.

I kept thinking, “I was Jenna in high-school? I still am Jenna!” Well I “was” Jenna in a world where facebook didn’t exist but Mxit did – and though I never added people I didn’t know I always found the ease of online communication far more fun (I was the shy girl). So, hello, Kelly meet Jenna.

Jenna is a young angsty teenager who hates the world and according to her it hates her too. It seems Jenna can only function with Facebook and IM (That’s instant messaging for you oldies out there). It seems, to her, that her only friends are those with kooky online names and great advice; that is until she meets Robert. He is perfect or so she thinks! A tumble here and a cliffhanger there Sally Partridge has me gripped from page one.

Now as you all know that I am not Young Adult genre’s biggest fan, but lately there is some awesome YA reads and I fear I maybe eating my words sooner than I thought (Ok stop applauding you YA lovers – hehe). I really did enjoy this read. You have a striking cover; a rather intensely set plot, a local setting and a fabulous author to sew it all together!

- Review by Kelly Ansara

About S.A Partridge

S.A Partridge lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is the author of the award-winning book, The Goblet Club – a novel about a young man’s frightening experience in the world’s worst boarding school. The novel won the SABC/You Magazine I am a writer Competition in 2007, as well as the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel at the Mnet Via Afrika Awards in 2008. The novel was adapted into a school play entitled G.I.F.

Her second novel, Fuse, deals with the sensitive subjects of school killings, bullying and runaways, and is set on the streets of Cape Town and Pretoria. It was published in 2009 by Human and Rousseau and was shortlisted for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for youth literature in 2010.

Sally’s short story, Triolet, Mauritius. One am, appears in the Home Away anthology by Zebra Press published in 2010. The anthology was selected for the Exclusive Books Homebru List in 2010.

The trials and tribulations of the average teenager are subjects very close to her heart and precisely what got her putting pen to paper in the first place. Sally likes to think that she writes about young people and not for them, despite gaining a steady following of teenage readers. Besides, writing about young people also ensures there is always something to write about.

As a journalist Sally has contributed to numerous publications including The Callsheet, The Event, Itch, PopMatters, Dazed and Confused and Music Review. She is the editor of The Event Newspaper.

She has also edited two novels in the Emily series for author Karen Michelle Brooks.
She was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2011.

Bio taken from S.A Partridges blog here

Follow her on twitter here

Don't forget to let us know what you think of the review!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

About the Book

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not – strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess – and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Published by Bloomsbury


"Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another.”

Let’s get one thing straight before we even begin – I am not a fan of historical fiction. Had this book not been recommended to me by someone with a passion for good books, I would probably never have read it. This is sad, really, because it is an astonishing debut.

The Song of Achilles is not so much a retelling of the mythological events surrounding Achilles in ancient Greece, as it is a magnified lens on one of his most intimate relationships. The tale is told from quite an original perspective, which is a striking effort for a debut author. It is, in fact, more about Patroclus than Achilles. Patroclus (who tells the story in first person) is a young prince who does not have the benefit of being strong, athletic, or particularly skilful in any area. As a result, he is not very popular with his peers and certainly not with his father. Circumstances contrive to cause him to be exiled from his father’s kingdom and he finds himself crossing paths with the handsome Achilles.

Patroclus is quite taken with this dashing young hero – everything a prince should be, including having the benefit of a goddess for a mother. Achilles is exceptionally fast and no one can defeat him in battle. His people admire him and follow him blindly. In his presence, no one can resist his magnetic influence. He takes a special interest in the shamed Patroclus, and before long, they are sworn companions and loyal friends. The story encompasses magical elements, enticing the reader with characters such as the centaur Chiron who becomes responsible for the boys’ studies; and dark prophecies which even the best heroes cannot escape. Gods and goddesses regularly feature, particularly Thetis, mother of Achilles. Her continuous appearances cause Patroclus great consternation, especially when his relationship with Achilles shifts from friend to lover.

Do not think that Madeline Miller has taken complete liberty with the storyline here. Miller herself is a classics scholar who has a BA and MA in Latin and Ancient Greek. In ancient times, many men had slave boys for lovers – this could often continue even when the man married a woman. So the author is certainly not asking us to take a leap of faith in sketching a gay relationship between our two protagonists.

The book is ultimately about love. The lack thereof between a father and his son; the unfathomable bond between an immortal goddess and her son; the love of a husband for his wife resulting in an epic war; the narcissistic longing of Achilles for unending glory and fame; and above all, the immense and enduring feelings Patroclus and Achilles share with each other. The latter causes Patroclus no end of joy and pain – his desire to be at Achilles’ side always, means that he too must march to war and have his faith in that love tested repeatedly whilst risking everything.

I find that The Song of Achilles poses intriguing questions – how far will you go for love; and where will you stop? How important is honour compared to fame? Is fame more enduring than love? If having one means sacrificing the other, which one would you choose? Should you even choose? Perhaps the passage which best illustrates this novel comes during the time of the Trojan War when Achilles says:

“They should hate Agamemnon. It is his pride that kills them.”
And yours. But I know the look on his face, the dark recklessness of his eyes. He will not yield. He does not know how. I have lived eighteen years with him, and he has never backed down, never lost. What will happen if he is forced to? I am afraid for him, and for me, and for all of us.”

Miller has crafted a superb debut which should be recognised for its bold viewpoints, the sweeping storyline reminiscent of a modern Iliad, and the easy but compelling narrative. "Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade.” So says one of the characters in The Song of Achilles. Let us hope that the author gains glory for her work sooner rather than later.

- Review by Bradley Lutz
Follow Bradley on Twitter

About the Author

Madeline Miller has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. The Song of Achilles is her first novel, published by Bloomsbury in September 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (20) The Lady of Rivers

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

This weeks "waiting for and might kill for" selection is:

The Lady of Rivers: A Novel (The Cousins' War)
by Philippa Gregory

Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 2011

Which cover do you prefer?

About the Book

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house­hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. 

Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

About the Author

Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the internationally bestselling novel The Other Boleyn Girl. Now she is looking at the family that preceded the Tudors: the magnificent Plantaganets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds.  Her other great interest is the charity that she founded nearly twenty years ago: Gardens for The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells for the primary schools of this poor African country. A former student of Sussex university, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire. She welcomes visitors to her site

Why am I waiting for it?

I have on many occasions felt that I secretly had an affair with Henry the VIII (Ok ok ok, who didn't back then?).  Gregory satisfies my Victorian urges of waltzing around the house in a corseted dress and shouting "Bring the suckling pig for eating!".  I WANT!

What are you waiting for?

Don't forget to tweet me your waiting on Wednesday

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

UK cover

 Published By: Pan Macmillan UK


About the book:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meaning.

Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her it for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what has been happening in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to confront painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

My Review:

This is high-end chick-lit. The amount of emotions that Victoria takes the reader through means stock your reading corner with imported chocolates and silk tissues (or a glass of wine and toilet paper in my case). I am not one for chick-lit; I have picked up Picoult for research purposes. But this is a beautiful book that borderlines contemporary drama. Victoria takes the reader on a journey of reckless abandonment and feelings of utter solitude even when surrounded by people. I was so absorbed in this book that when Victoria felt hollow, that no feeling or flower could fill, I felt empty empathy.

Victoria was abandoned at such a young age and could never escape that feeling that she was going to either be hurt by others or that she would torrentially harm others if they got too close. This idea is further highlighted when we are taken back in time and introduced to Elizabeth, the last chance Victoria has or she will stay in foster care forever. Although she portrays a very strong persona to the outside world, Victoria is a very vulnerable woman, susceptible to self-loathing and a desire to be loved but overcome by a nausea so strong when people do attempt to cross her personal boundary.

The book is narrated by Victoria, so the other characters can at times feel very one-dimensional and either too perfect, or too much like characters out of Oliver Twist. I also found the ending was a bit rushed and there was a point where I thought this would be a case of Happily ever after. Thankfully, Diffenbaugh is a bit of a realist at heart so knew to which lengths she could go to without it being confused with Cinderella.

I loved that every section of the book was broken down by the name of a flower. Granted, not the most original of ideas but that particular flower tied in to the theme and sub-plots of the section which I felt compelling and relevant.

This book is about love, from mother to daughter, from friend to friend and lover to lover. Love in all its qualities; it’s sophistication, the flaws, the betrayals, exuberance, the desperation and its honesty.

The Language of Flowers is a book filled with insightful analysis. We are all individuals, we have different ideas, different visions, separate minds. But we all-in our own way-want to love and want to be loved. A rose is a rose, is a rose...

Sending you all electronic sage; good health and long life.

About the Author

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband PK have three children: Tre’von, 18, Chela, 4, and Miles, 3. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millenium Scholarship. Vanessa and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

- Review by Tarryn Talbot

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011

During this week the book blogging world acknowledges the wonderful community we have online. We do this by handing out awards , and by following daily blogging prompts. While overseas blogs take part in discussions, I wanted to showcase the Top 5 books of LOCAL (Yes, you read correctly, Local!) South African book bloggers!

Chriz lives in sunny South Africa, a beading & book blogger and coffee enthusiast!

You can follow her here on twitter or visit her blog here

I credit Stephenie Meyer with re-igniting my love of reading. For a few years before I read Twilight, I was lost. I used to LOVE reading and devoured books daily. Then I met my husband and life just kind of interfered. Suddenly I wasn't reading anymore . . . at all. On my birthday, I decided I needed a "from-me-to-me" gift. Browsing around the bookstore, I saw the beautiful cover of Twilight and drove head-first into the YA genre. Read the four books in four days and the rest is history :)
My top 5 reads are all books in my AT (After Twilight) life. I read almost all genres, so here are my eclectic list, in no particular order.

Feed by Mira Grant

Loved this book. I started it as an audio book on my long commute to work but then my iPod decided he hated me and I had to find a print copy. I enjoy dystopian (and zombie) books and this thriller was an interesting take on this theme. And off course, no-one saw that ending coming. The sequel was released this year and it is definitely on my TBR list.

A Honeybun and Coffee by Sam Cheever

This was the first book I read by Sam Cheever. I can't remember how I got to know about it but it was the first eBook I bought. eReaders were still new to me then and I couldn't wait to read it on my kindle :) After the first few chapters I was hooked and I read it in record time. It was such a fun and sizzling thriller that Sam Cheever is now one of my favorite authors.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

I always loved horrors by Dean Koontz but in the last few years my taste in books changed and I was having trouble finishing books written by him. Then my husband bought Odd Thomas and what a book it turned out to be! I think it must be one of the best books he has ever written. And what a surprise ending . . . I re-read the last few chapters immediately to see if I could find any clues for the ending to come . . .

Lover Awakend by JR Ward

The Black Dagger Brotherhood is an amazing fantasy series and all the books take you away from the real world immediately. I loved them all but I do have a weak spot for a tortured hero and Zsadist is one of the most tortured souls in the series. Luckily we can always count on Ms Ward to give us a happy ending :)

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

This is one of the two books that had me wiping away tears as I was reading it. What a beautiful book! The emotions just jump off the pages. It is a cross between science fiction, dystopian novel and romance. Very difficult to classify but well worth the read. I cannot wait for the second in the series that will be published in 2012.

* * *

So tweet me (or Chriz) you top 5 books - don't forget the hash-tag #BBAW2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011

During this week the book blogging world acknowledges the wonderful community we have online. We do this by handing out awards , and by following daily blogging prompts. While overseas blogs take part in discussions, I wanted to showcase the Top 5 books of LOCAL (Yes, you read correctly, Local!) South African book bloggers!

S.A Partridge lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is the author of the award-winning book, The Goblet Club – a novel about a young man’s frightening experience in the world’s worst boarding school...
You can follow her here on twitter or visit her blog here
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 
by JK Rowling

I love the entire Harry Potter series, and I could give you a million different reasons why each one should be my favourite, but there’s something about this one that just makes it stick out above the rest. I think it’s that moment when Dumbledore pulls Harry’s name out of the Goblet of Fire. I’ve re-read this book about ten times and that scene never fails to give me goosebumps, every time.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Stephen King is the original YA author. He gets kids. Period. I mean, look at The Body, Carrie, It, Apt Pupil, to name a few. When I first read Salem’s Lot back in high school (and re-read it about a hundreds times after) I was so struck by the journey of Mark Petrie that it could have been me fighting vampires in those dog-eared pages. It swallowed me up and ruined me for grown-up books forever.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden is one the most intense YAs I’ve come across in a while. The story follows the tragic love story of siblings Lochan and Maya, who discover their true feelings for each other after years of hard living and relying on each other for support, while their disillusioned mother slowly but surely disappears from their lives. There are plenty of Gah! Moments in this one, which has that delicious us-against-the-world feel that only a YA can deliver. I love it, love it, love it, a million times over and I can’t wait to read it a second time to experience that wonderful electric breathlessness all over again.  The ending left me reeling.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel 
by Susanna Clarke

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. The magic aside (which is awesome), the descriptions of the secret fairy kingdom transported me right back into endless childhood hours spent looking under bushes for the little folk.  The plot is brilliant, the writing is incredibly delicate and beautiful, and the storyline will wrap itself around your brain and leave you stricken for days after. Enough said.

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Translated from the Russian, Night Watch weaves the lush mysticism of Russian folklore into modern day Moskow. Living among the citizens are the "Others," an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. I’ll pick this book up to cheer myself up after a particularly grim day, or just for a burst of inspiration. It’s just truly lovely.  


So tweet me (or SA Partridge) you top 5 books - don't forget the hash-tag #BBAW2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011

During this week the book blogging world acknowledges the wonderful community we have online. We do this by handing out awards , and by following daily blogging prompts. While overseas blogs take part in discussions, I wanted to showcase the Top 5 books of LOCAL (Yes, you read correctly, Local!) South African book bloggers!

First up is KJ Mulder, a sci-fi buff, book addict and twitter chatterbox.
You can follow him here on twitter or visit his blog here

I don’t really like doing a list of top 5 books ever read. How do you choose? What criteria do you use? So I’m going to settle for my most memorable reads - the books which have played a huge role in my life and which immediately jump to mind. They might not be the best ever written or have the same meaning to someone else, but they’ll keep being special to me. So here they are in no particular order of preference.

The Belgariad by David Eddings
I know, I know. This is a series not one book, but I'm hoping I can sneak it in. This was the Harry Potter of my generation. Many a school break was spent discussing the books and it got to a stage where there were heated battles over who got to take out which book from the library. Interestingly enough the exact same copies I read are still at my local library.
Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
I've always been interested in space and this was one of the few astronomy books the library had when I went looking into the subject. This was the first book that really brought the point home about how tiny and insignificant we really are living on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. After all these years I still remember that “Pale Blue Dot” passage.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I think this was one of the first science fiction novels I read and loved. I just immediately identified with Ender and what he was going through. I guess this came at just the exact time that I needed it in my life and showed me that it was fine to believe in yourself no matter what. From Ender’s Game my fanatical love of all things sci-fi sprouted.

Contact by Carl Sagan
Another Carl Sagan book I have many fond memories of. I read this shortly after Pale Blue Dot and was amazed that science fiction could be scientifically sound. At the time I had no idea that ‘hard science’ fiction existed. Contact is still viewed as one of the most accurate sci-fi novels and is way better than the movie (especially since Jodie Foster made a major mess of the Drake equation). I chalk my love for hard sci-fi to reading this as a teen.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H.Wilson
Now for something NOT written in the 80s! Robopocalypse is one of the most entertaining novels I’ve read in a long while. I love technology and all its trappings, but after reading this I was thinking twice about getting into elevators or getting close to anything with microchips in them. Those self-driving cars Google are developing no longer seem like such a good idea. I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to regain my trust in technology ever again.
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