5 of 5 stars to ‘Opposition’ by Jennifer Armentrout

Opposition J Armentrout

Smashing end to fantastic series

The world as they knew it has changed and there will be no going back for Katy and Daemon. The Luxen have arrived in their hoards, and peace with mankind is the furthest thing from their alien minds. Nothing can stop the wide-spread destruction they bring with them. Can Daemon resist their brain-washing? Will he and Katy survive this apocalypse. Are they the only hope left for humankind and who can they trust in this war?

What a journey Kat and Daemon have had. From the school-room to the military bunker, they’ve survived it all – and come out stronger. The growth in their relationship and the maturing of their characters has been a delight to follow. Every time I finished one novel in the series and began the next, I wondered how on earth (or in this universe!) Ms Armentrout would be able to top that and move to another level. Yet she did not disappoint.

I love that Daemon kept his sassy, sexy arrogance throughout, and his sense of humor brought a bit of lightness to come seriously tense moments. His tenderness and ‘die-for-you’ passion has seriously made him one of my favorite book boyfriends of all time. The action in this installment, the suspense and the passion was fantastic, as usual. The writing was easy going, true Armentrout style, and the plot flowed nicely, making this one of those novels I put my own writing and studying aside to finish!

When I picked up the first novel in this series, I never expected I would get so drawn in or to fall so hopelessly in love with Daemon and Katy. I’m going to miss these characters!

15 fun facts about South Africa

Nelson Mandela

Happy heritage day South Africa!

1. Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent.

2. The deepest mine is a gold mine in South Africa. in 1977 the Western Deep Levels Mine reached a depth of 11,749 feet. Most mines descend to about 3,300 feet.

3. South Africa generates two-thirds of Africa’s electricity.

4. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world – and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the U.S. is the biggest, and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia the second, but both are very dry.

5. South Africa is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 0.39 inches) and the largest (the baobab tree).

6. Kimberley may have the biggest man-made hole in the world, but did you know that the southern Free State town of Jagersfontein has the deepest vertical man-made hole?

7. The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prizewinners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.

8. South Africa is the world’s leader in mining and minerals. It has nearly 90% of the platinum metals on earth, 80% of the manganese, 73% of the chrome, 45% of the vanadium and 41% of the gold.

9. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, just across the Vaal River near Parys, called the Vredefort Dome. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.

11. Dr. Christiaan Barnard, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967. He was also the first to do a “piggyback” transplant in 1971, and he was the first to do a heart-lung transplant.

12. The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan Diamond, found in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106.75 carats uncut. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats, the Lesser Star of Africa, which weighs 317.40 carats, and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless color and clarity. They now form part of the British crown jewels.

13. Three of the five fastest land animals live in South Africa – the cheetah (63 miles per hour), the wildebeest, and the lion.

14. The oldest remains of modern humans were found in Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape. They are well over 100,000 years old.

15. There are more than 2,000 shipwrecks, dating back at least 500 years, off the South African coast. More than one of these, including the Waratah, simply vanished without a trace.

See the full original article on http://www.larktours.com

5 of 5 stars for ‘Heir of Fire’ by Sarah J Maas

Heir of Fire

Emotional journey

Chaol thought he was protecting Celaena by suggesting the King send his champion to Wendlyn to dispatch the royal family. But that was before he had unravelled the riddle she left about her true identity. Never did he imagine that the woman he loved would turn out to be the single greatest threat to the King he is sworn to protect.

Celaena arrives in Wendlyn with one goal in mind: to avenge the death of her friend. She may be the Kings champion, feared and revered, but this side of the ocean, she’s way out of her depth. Riddled with guilt and self-loathing at her sins and failures, Celaena must start at the bottom of the ladder again, to find herself and prove worthy of the title she has long ago given up hope of fulfilling.

The Throne of Glass series has it all: magic, romance, adventure, horror, tragedy…and now Heir of Fire has added something else to up the stakes in this, one of my favorite series of all time. Friendship. What a refreshing addition this is. The development of this new relationship that starts out teeming with conflict, is deep and soulful and matures Celaena’s character in wonderful ways.

The introduction of the witches was another gem in this installment. Ms Maas has done away with the stereotypes of these creatures, and created a whole new species that is a study in ambiguity. They are cruel, cunning and evil – or are they?

There were many exciting action moments, some devastating moments of betrayal and some tender moments too, but this novel was really more about the emotional journey of Celaena and her rediscovery and acceptance of herself. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 of 5 stars to ‘Ocean’s gift’ by Demelza Carlton

Oceans gift

Not your average mermaid tale

The ocean currents are shifting and life beneath the waves is altering in big ways, but it seems that the humans who live on the land are oblivious of the changes. Sirena, elder of the mermaid people, is appointed to take her two scouts to the human’s lands to investigate what they know about the environmental changes.

Her exploration takes Sirena and her two daughters to the Abrolhos islands, off Western Australia. There, Sirena takes on the alias of Vanessa and meets fisherman come electrician Joe. Sirena finds herself becoming more and more attracted to this down to earth male, but is the connection between them enough to make her forget the man she first loved and lost to the ocean?

It may be about mermaids, but this story is not your average stardust and magic tale. There are no airs and graces. The characters are earthy. The relationship between Vanessa and Joe has very little romance in it, and appears to be highly physical. While I longed for more ‘anticipation’ and less ‘participation’ in their interactions, I felt that Ms Carlton achieved a certain level of differentiation with this approach, which was further supported by the almost mechanical speech of the mermaids. This technique emphasized the differences in the species.

Ocean’s gift has a distinctly Australian culture to it. It’s there in the character’s speech, the choice of food, aromas and activities and is one of the draw cards of this novel. At times, I felt that the story moved a little slowly, but realize that too served to emphasize the laid back culture of the Australian islands and the differences in time perspectives between the mermaids and the humans. I do wish there had been more about Sirena’s home beneath the waves. The references to the environment were tasteful and thought-provoking. Overall I really enjoyed this novel.

National heritage day celebration

Braai day

Celebrating National heritage day

We may be a tiny speck at the bottom of the African continent and we may have some of the worst crime stats in the world, but we also have some of the most beautiful scenery, some of the richest history and the most eclectic mix of people. To celebrate heritage day on 24 September, and to answer some of the questions my international readers have about the cultural aspects of ‘Five: A Maor novel’, here’s looking at some of the traditions that make South Africa unique and worth living in.

Braai: Similar to a barbecue, South Africans love to gather around an open fire and grill boerewors, steak, and all manner of ‘vleis’ (meat) with a group of friends and a lot of beer. We’re so passionate about this tradition, in fact, that we’ve dedicated a whole day each year to it. National heritage day, 24 September, is affectionately known as ‘National braai day’. Thankfully, our sunny skies and mild Winters are partial to this practice.
Mieliepap: A maize based porridge that is a firm staple in most households. Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and a favorite with ‘braai vleis’.
Nelson Mandela square: Located in the heart of the Sandton business district, Nelson Mandela square is the ‘go-to’ shopping and entertainment centre. But what makes this square so special, is the piece of empty, paved ground in the middle of it, where the bronze statue of our beloved ‘Madiba’ stands. Never was the square so beautiful than the days following the passing of Nelson Mandela, when every available piece of paving was covered knee-deep in flowers and cards to commemorate the life of a world-class leader.
Lekker: An Afrikaans word that is used by all South Africans, regardless of ethnicity or which of the eleven official languages we speak (that’s right, we have eleven! They don’t call us the rainbow nation for nothing). Often used to emphasize or describe something that is great, awesome or tasty. ‘The food is lekker!’ ‘That was a lekker day!’
Rugby: Our national sport. It’s a little like football, but the rules differ. South African’s become very patriotic during games and are passionate about both the regional and national teams. Rugby is best watched in a South African green and gold shirt, with a bunch of rowdy friends and a six-pack of beer.
Marmite: A yeast based extract that is a firm favorite for school lunches. Similar to Vegemite.
Biltong: Similar to beef jerky but I’m told that our version is much better! Cured, spiced, dried meat that is a must have for any South African get-together. We make it from various meats, the most common being beef and ostrich, and sometimes from game.
Mrs Balls Chutney: An essential South African condiment made from fruit or vegetables. No other brand will do and expats worldwide will search high and low for the original recipe flavor of Desmond Balls Chutney. Great on cheese sandwiches and bobotie.
Ouma Rusks: In 1939, Grandmother Greyvensteyn was given half a crown by her local church to assist their mission work following the devastation of the Great Depression. She began baking her delicious rusks for the local Molteno community. It wasn’t long before orders for her mouth-watering baking came pouring in from all over the country and today, Ouma Rusks is one of the best-known and most-loved brands in South Africa.
Mine dumps: Tailings are the materials left over from the mining process. South Africa has some of the deepest mines in the world and we’re renowned for our gold and diamonds. These man-made mountains dot the city-scape of Johannesburg. It’s a little frightening to imagine that all of that stuff used to be packed tight in the earth beneath our feet, but the piles of sandy remains add a certain character, and a layer of dust on windy days to the Joburg skyline.
Sophiatown: Formerly known as Triomf, this part of Johannesburg was the artistic, political, cultural and musical epicenter of the anti-apartheid movement. It may have been destroyed with the forced removals of 1955, but the indomitable spirit lives on in South African music, art and memory.

These are just some of the reasons I choose to stay in this wonderful country I call home, and some of the things Shaylee Greene from Five remembers about growing up in South Africa. Where is the place you call home? This heritage day, I urge you to put on your patriotic-hat and think of the reasons you love your country and your culture.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Delirium’ by Lauren Oliver

Delirium

Showcase for the beauty of life

 

Love, a four letter word that invokes fear and disgust in the minds of every civilized American. It is the deadliest of all diseases and brings with it only pain, loss and heartache. Having witnessed first-hand the disastrous symptoms of the deliria, Lena Haloway eagerly counts the days until her eighteenth birthday, when she will be cured. Then she meets Alex, an invalid from the wilds, and everything she thought she knew about the disease, the government, society and even her past is called into question.

Wow! I can’t remember when last I read a book this emotionally charged. The entire novel is like a showcase for the beauty of life. The stark contrast between the cured and uncured civilians is spectacular. The sheer splendor of Ms. Oliver’s words and descriptions makes every mundane act of living a piece of art and poetry. Very few ‘pictures’ resonate with me for any length of time after reading a novel, but I cannot get the vision of the Portland bay at sunset out of my mind!

The relationship between Lena and her best friend Hana is definitely one of the highlights of this novel. It is so wonderfully natural and Hana’s vibrant character leaps off the pages, into your face. Lena’s character growth is beautifully developed, her habits are endearing, and her relationship with Alex is exciting and lovely at once.

There are so many underlying morals and themes in this novel, but for me, the greatest is the warning against apathy.  What an eye opener it is to imagine this world without love.

The ending – so tragic and yet real. I take my hat off to an author who is willing to remain true to her story this way. I can’t wait to read the sequel! This series goes into my ‘Favorite series of all time’ shelf!