Wednesday, 3 August 2016

IncompleteIncomplete by Ann Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great romp through a few days in the life of a teenager nearing the end of her high school days. Not that it's anything you'd expect, apart from the Mean Girls clique. Lauren is a bit of a nerd, quite an outcast, and the focus of mean behaviour from her nemesis. At first I wasn't 100% sure about whether or not I'd enjoy this, as I'm way past the teen angst stage. Then the surprises started. A demonic pyramid scheme, the sale of part of her soul, a clever monkey (literally). Full of twists and surprises, Incomplete is engaging and fun, while not shying away from serious topics such as domestic abuse. The writing is also a pleasure - correct grammar and spelling makes a huge difference and Ann Anderson is spot-on with her metaphors and descriptive passages. As for the characters, I went through several stages of hating some, laughing at others, pitying a few, and ending up surprised and pleased by the satisfying ending. A sequel would be great, but all in all, Incomplete is a perfect stand-alone novel.

Disclaimer: I received a free advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Opal Cowan Trilogy 3 Books Collection Set (Glass, #1-3)Opal Cowan Trilogy 3 Books Collection Set by Maria V. Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I was inclined to dismiss the Glass series as just another YA fantasy collection. But it's more than that. Simple and yet evocative, beautifully written, with engaging characters, difficult situations, and a great sense of humour, this is a series to which I'm sure I will return in years to come.

Initially I thought Opal would be one of those flighty, breathless, overly romantic heroines. But she turned out to be strong - physically as well as mentally - and conflicted, more than just a shallow figurehead. She gets herself into trouble, but somehow finds her way out, either the good way, with the help of her friends, or else in a way that costs her more than the reader expects. There were times I couldn't believe the unfairness of what was happening to her. But it all led up to a gripping tale that I couldn't put down.

Don't get me wrong - I wasn't completely convinced by all her decisions and there were times - especially at the end - when I completely disagreed with what she was doing. Still, that was the point, I think - that she didn't always do the expected. That she didn't conform. And that she had to learn to rebel.

All in all, a worthwhile read.

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Spread the word - Part 2

Following on yesterday's post, a bit of background:

It was a bit weird having the photos taken and trying to get the info across to Elizabeth Sejeke, who wrote the piece. There was so much left out. So here's what I said to her before the publication:

"I waited 12 years to get my first tattoo, because I was never satisfied with the imagery I found and couldn't see it on myself for the rest of my life. I'm glad I waited, because now there are so many different styles that are more suitable for what I have in mind for my art.

I got my first tattoo for my 39th birthday, when I was on holiday in Umhlanga. I went to Electric Eye Tattoo in Gateway Mall with a picture of the Grim Squeaker from Terry Pratchett's Discworld. I love the Squeaker, this little Death of Rats, and I found the perfect picture - I'm so besotted with it that I made sure the original artist's signature (Hanie Mohd) was added to the tattoo. Abigail, who did my tattoo, was friendly, accommodating and informative, and really put me at ease during the session.

Most of the rest of my tattoos were done by Ryan "Busta" Boltoon of The Golden Tiki. He started with my sci-fi back piece, which is about a third finished. It will eventually be a collage of my favourite spaceships and space travel devices. These are from some of my favourite series and movies, and all of them represent the family that you make yourself. The saying is not actually "blood is thicker than water" - it's "The blood of the sword is thicker than the water of the womb", and means that your brothers and sisters in war can sometimes form stronger bonds than those with whom you share genes. I love my family, but there are things only your best friends can understand. 

My spaceships are also about the joy of exploration - since I will never be an astronaut, I have these on my skin to remind myself that there is joy and wonder to be found in exploring space and nature, even vicariously.

The Grim Squeaker on my left ankle is joined by The Librarian - also from Discworld - on my right. I love books, I love magic and fantasy, and Terry Pratchett's wizardly orangutan just nails the frustration of being interrupted while reading. 

Busta also tattooed my Krakenlet on my left shoulder and happy spider on my right. These represent my husband and myself - he's the spider, I'm the octopus. We think of these as our spirit animals, and I had them done in a style that's cute and colourful and makes me smile when I look in the mirror. 

Finally, I have another spaceship on my left wrist, tattooed by Jinx of Fallen Heroes, who has since left for Portugal. I designed the original tattoo, using my favourite quote from my favourite series, Firefly - "You can't take the sky from me". Says it all, really. 

So why do I, a 43-year-old woman working for a big corporate, have tattoos? Why do I plan on getting more? Well, I've never been particularly good-looking and I've always had self-esteem issues. But ever since the needles first bit into my skin, I've realised that I'm pretty darn fantastic. I love the way the colours and designs make me feel. I'm more confident with them on my skin, and I'm always looking for chances to show them off. Thankfully it's not an issue at my place of work, but of course they can be covered up quite easily. I have no intention of getting "job-stoppers", because I'm not in the kind of industry that would allow for those. I do admire people who have beautiful tattoos on their hands or neck, but they're not for me. 

I have very specific ideas about the kind of tattoos I want, and as I'm not much into flowers, skulls, birds or butterflies, I'll stick to the things that bring me pleasure. I want swathes of colour and cheer across my skin, so I'm glad that I only got into it much later than my young self wanted. I'm glad I never found that elusive "perfect" wolf picture, because I'd never have had my spaceships if I'd gone with that. It would have been a loss. 

As for what my family says, my mother was shocked at first, but she has grown to like them. I think she'd be more against them if they were skulls or demonic, but she sees how much joy I take in them, and she has never criticised them to me. Not that it matters; the only person whose opinion is important to me in this regard is my husband, and even he would never dream of telling me what to do with my own body. He's quite chuffed to be married to "that tattooed chick", in any event. All he asks is that I don't tattoo my face, neck or hands, or have anything gross or freaky, and I'm perfectly satisfied with that. 

I hope to encourage young people - specifically, young women - that tattoos are not scary or a sign of a bad upbringing. They're an art. And as they're on you for life, respect yourself and the art, and think before you get that first one. Don't just go for the first bit of flash you see just because you feel pressured. Take the time to think about what's important to you, and I don't mean your significant other's name, or the lyrics of that song you like. Research, consult, look around, and be prepared to pay for an artist who is not only good with the tattoo machine (it's not a "tattoo gun"), but will also advise you on what will work and what won't. Listen to them. They've been doing this for years and want you to be happy with your art. It's good for business. And please, don't go for someone cheap. I promise, it's not worth it. "
My friends Lauren and Cashe got their pics taken, too. Pretty cool, no?

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Spread the word

My tattoos made it into a national newspaper - today's City Press. Just a tiny piece, but aimed at breaking down the #tattoo taboo. #inkundermyskin #southafricaink
Posted by Sue-Ann Cooper on Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Black Swan Collected Tales, Books 1-6Black Swan Collected Tales, Books 1-6 by Victoria Danann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun series of books, with protagonists whose characters developed over the course of the series, humor, action, angst and much more. The first book took a little while to draw me in - not because of the pacing, which was excellent, but because it was much more of a typical paranormal romance than the rest of the stories. Once that was overcome, the rest moved at the same cracking pace, except for the last, which I found a bit lacking in comparison - perhaps because Aelsong and Duffy weren't as involved in their own tale as the rest of the characters.

On the whole, I enjoyed the world into which Elora was thrust, and the relationships between the Black Swan B Team, their significant others, and the rest of the Knights. Not to mention the vampire, Blackie the dog, the wolves, the elves and the fae. Certainly Elora started out as somewhat of a Mary Sue, being virtually perfect, but it never went overboard and she eventually made a few decisions that showed she wasn't all that perfect, which helped me warm up to her. Also, she never took guff from the men around her and she didn't allow herself to be treated like someone requiring protection. None of the women did, with the possible exception of Katrina and Heaven, who were, after all, merely human. Still, no one was a simpering, helpless female, which made me like them all the more.

The relationships between the characters were dynamic and evolved throughout the series, and really drew me into the story. I felt close to them and their friendships, troubles and triumphs. I wish there could have been more of Kay, but perhaps his relationship with a typical human woman wasn't all that interesting, although what we saw of his family was funny and fun at the same time.

All in all, highly recommended if you enjoy thoroughly immersing yourself in characterisation and relationships with lots of action thrown in along the way.

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