Great fiction parents

Parent quote 2

Since it’s that time of year again when we celebrate the amazing things our mothers and fathers do for us each day, I took a look at some of the books I’ve read recently in search of great Mom and Dad examples. Sadly, there are not many! In fact, most books, in the young adult genre in particular, are characterized by absent or troubled parental figures. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, or a tainted perception from the eyes of the troubled main characters? Thankfully, there were a few good examples though! Here are my top fiction moms and dads:

1. Claire and Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series:
They’re the kind of parents many of us dream of having. Protective and loving, but willing to let their offspring live and learn. A shining example of a healthy marriage. They give their children their own space and are there to help, but they’re not afraid to let them fight their own battles. Claire and Jamie have tempered their love with just the right amount of freedom to ensure that their children are prepared to travel through time to be with them.

2. Esme from Twilight
She may not be there biological mother, but Esme is “Mom” in every sense of the word to the Cullens. She loves fiercely and will protect to the point of death. She’s got enough heart to welcome even an outsider human into the family and her maternal love spans centuries. Any woman who can love as unconditionally as Esme can and take another’s offspring as her own is a heroine in my books.

3. The Lancasters from The fault in our stars
They’re faced with a parent’s worse nightmare. Nothing could be worse than knowing you will outlive your child. Yet they have accepted the reality of their daughter’s fate with both grace and bravery. There’s no time to treat Hazel as the teenager she is. The Lancasters have accepted that their beautiful girl is just more grown up than other girls her age, as a consequence of her shortened life expectancy. They treat Hazel with the respect, leniency and maturity of an adult, with just the right amount of concern and protectiveness. One of the things that sets this couple apart from the rest, is their ability to think beyond life with their daughter. Mom and Dad realize that they have their own lives too, and it’s important to live to the fullest, regardless of their tragic circumstances. This strength spills over into the life of their offspring.

These are some of my favorite fiction moms and dads. Can you think of yours? Better yet, can you think of your own parents and what makes them so special to you?

Ten reasons to love Kindle

Love my Kindle

Ten reasons to love Kindle

‘Nothing beats the smell of a crisp new book, or an old one for that matter.’
There are many arguments for and against modern reading devices. Here are a couple reasons why I prefer my Kindle to a traditional print book:

1. Space. There is nothing more beautiful than a room covered in floor to ceiling shelves of leather bound books. Sadly, not many of us live in castles like Belle, and space comes at a premium. With my Kindle, there are no limits to the amount of books I can keep on my virtual shelves.
2. Read wherever you go. Going on holiday? Not sure which book to take along? With my Kindle, I can take them all and I won’t need an entire suitcase for my collection. With the Kindle app downloaded on my phone, I can even read in the doctor’s waiting room and easily sync to my last place on Kindle.
3. Affordable. Before my Kindle, I had a limited budget for my purchases of reading material. With Kindle books retailing anywhere from $2 and up, the sky’s the limit! Authors are also frequently running Kindle promotions, offering their books at half price or even free, so the cost of reading has dropped exponentially, allowing me to read much more for my money.
4. Easy to hold. Many people rave about the feel of a print book in their hands. They love the smell and the crackle of the pages as they turn. I’m a lover of technology. There is nothing better than the feel of a light-weight Kindle that turns pages silently with the slightest movement of your thumb. It fits perfectly into my hand, and my bag!
5. Backed up. The threat of loss is probably not foremost in most people minds, but when you’ve been burgled once or twice, it gets you thinking. Granted, very few burglars will likely be interested in a copy of ‘Pride and prejudice’, but there are others ways to lose things too. Fire, borrowing to friends who don’t return or simply misplacing things are common reasons for the loss of print books. Thankfully, with my Kindle, every purchase is backed up on Amazon’s servers and I can delete and download onto my device as I please.
6. Personalized text size. Ever bought a book and then opened to the first page and discovered you need a magnifying glass to read it? With Kindle, I can change the size of the text at a touch to match and manage my eyesight and desired pace.
7. Sample before you buy. Most Amazon ebooks have a ‘sample before you buy’ feature. I’ve found that you can often tell by reading the first few pages of a book whether or not you’re going to like it. Amazon allows you to read the first few chapters and even download it before you fork out the purchase price.
8. Non-glare screen. With the advent of the tablet and the Kindle reading app, many people are switching to one device only. I like the idea, and have tried it out myself, but found the back-lit screen of an iPad is hard on the eyes, especially late at night when I do most of my reading. The Kindle also has a backlight for reading in the dark, but the quality of the screen is probably the closest thing you’ll ever get to a traditional print book.
9. Save the trees. Resources are precious and it’s our responsibility to preserve them for future generations. Cutting and processing millions of trees for the paper we use and waste is not helping matters much, so I’m doing my little bit to save the planet by using my Kindle instead!
10. Battery life. At the rate I use them, very few of my devices have a battery life that lasts even a day. Kindle boasts upwards of a week of battery life, even with me reading a few hours every day.
I may sound like an Amazon saleswoman, but take my word for it – any product that gets me excited enough to write about it is pretty awesome. You can drop me off on an island with just my Kindle any day!

Indie vs Traditionally published books?

Support Indie

Is one better than the other?

eBooks have exploded the world of publishing. With the push of a button, nearly anyone can publish their own book. Not surprisingly, this has led to a multitude of fears surrounding the quality of Indie published works.

Prior to 2014, most of my bookshelves contained only traditionally published novels. Looking back, I put the reason for the lack of Indie books down to simple awareness. Back then, I bought what the marketers were selling. Back then, I had no idea there was a goldmine hiding just out of sight in the Amazon bookstore.

The publishing of my novel, ‘Five’, plunged me into the world of Indie. I found myself interacting with ‘Indie writers’ on forums such as The Book review Depot and Goodreads, and my bookshelves slowly began to even out. What I found, was surprisingly contrary to what many articles have claimed:

I had expected to find a lower quality of writing. What I found was a community of people who are passionate about what they do and have mastered story-telling skills I found sorely lacking in some of the bestselling novels I’ve read. These people are constantly striving to improve their skills and their work was often in my mind, superior to those on the bestseller lists.

I had expected to find novels riddled with grammatical errors. What I found was a thriving industry of editors that exist because Indie authors believe in giving their best to the paying public. These pedantic authors have written, rewritten, edited and re-edited their works to ensure that the reader gets the best possible bang for their buck.

I had expected to find every Indie author clawing and stepping over one another in the process of trying to get their books into the hands of readers. What I found was a tight-knit, incredibly supportive group of authors, bloggers and readers, who are willing to go out of their way to help one another. They offer honest, positive feedback, suggestions and advice in numerous online forums.

I had expected to find stingy authors, trying to make whatever money they could off their work. What I found was a group of writers who work by day, create masterpieces at night, and then still give away the fruits of their hard labors. Simply put, they write for love, not money.

So for 2015, I’ve made a pact with myself. I’m going to read much more Indie books, and I’ll share my reviews with all of you. I promise to keep them fairly brief and always honest. Because I want to entice you to dip into this mine of gold, diamonds, emeralds and rubies hiding just beneath the Amazon bestseller list.

Year of dreams

Dreams

Hello 2015, Year of dreams!

2014 will forever be ensconced in my mind at the year of dreams. It was the year I stopped talking about being a writer and finally became one, with the publishing of ‘Five’ in May. I would like to thank the many wonderful new and old friends and fans I’ve met along the way for their incredible support. It is so heart-warming to read your reviews, comments and tweets! It makes me want to write more!

On the other side of the penny, 2014 was also a great year for good reading, so here are my top ten series / books read in 2014 in no particular order:
Divergent series by Veronica Roth
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Delirium series by Lauren Oliver
Throne of glass series by Sarah J Maas
Up from the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Immortal instruments series by Cassandra Clare
The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
Copperheart by Gemma Farrow
The fault in our stars by John Green
Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout

So what’s in store for 2015? Plenty more good books it seems. I’ve joined the Goodreads challenge and pledged to reading at least 24 books this year. And plenty of writing too! This year will see the release of ‘Three’, the anticipated second book in the Maor series.

If you haven’t taken that step toward your dream yet, I urge you to let 2015 be your ‘year of dreams’. And if you’re brave enough, head on over to Goodreads and top my reading challenge!

Hot Heroines

I love heroines

Standout fiction heroines

They’re sexy and sassy with an extra side of saucy. Here are ten of my favorite fiction gals and what makes them stand out from the rest.
Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas: She’s no damsel in distress. This self sufficient gal needs no man to survive. She can fight with the dirtiest of them and come out on top.
Katy Swartz from Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout: Katy’s got her own book blog! That alone makes her supercool.
Bella Swan from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Bella’s ordinary in the midst of the extraordinary. She’s clumsy and silly like the rest of us and that makes her relatable and human.
Hazel Grace Lancaster from the Fault in our stars by John Green: Hazel is a wise beyond her years. She’s got bravery in buckets and is not afraid to live.
Lyssa Peate from Double Life by S Usher Evans: Lyssa’s a woman in a man’s world and she’s doing a better job than them too. Juggling two identities is no piece of cake but this girls got the balls to do it.
America Singer from The One by Kiera Cass: Beauty with brains. America may have been chosen for her looks, but there’s so much more to her than meets the eye, and she’s not afraid to be herself and stand out.
Blue Sargent from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: She see’s things that would make other people run a mile but Blue takes it in her stride. From young, she’s been warned that she will cause the death of her true love, but that doesn’t stop her. She’s not afraid to love, even if it means loss somewhere down the line.
Shaylee Greene from Five by Caroline Greyling: Shaylee may be just seventeen but she’s no ordinary anxious teen. She’s got a mature head on her shoulders, she knows what she wants out of life and she’s chasing her dreams.
Beatrice Prior from Divergent by Veronica Roth: Nothing can stop Tris from standing up for what she believes in. She’ll give up her entire family and more, and won’t hesitate to go against her upbringing and social expectations to be true to herself.
Sloan Masterson from Lost in Starlight by Sherry Soule: This girls got what it takes to uncover even the toughest of stories, and look good while doing it. She’s proof enough that you don’t need to be a size eight to look good.

These are just some of my favorite gals. Who are yours?

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

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.