Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On The Fence by Kasie West

She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect.

One of my huge sleeper hits of 2013 was The Distance Between Us by Kasie West which I reread in the weeks following my initial all-nighter read. This was followed by major excitement for her 4th book and 2nd contemporary YA title, On The Fence. I was sold from the first line of the blurb: She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door… sign me up (who doesn't love a boy-next-door contemporary YA?)

You guys, I am fast becoming a huge fan of Kasie West and suspect I will soon feel the same way about her as I do about Elizabeth Scott (who is one of my fave YA authors for swoon and comfort reads -- although completely different in style they both hit the spot).

On The Fence is my kind of reading escape: fun and swoony with the perfect combo of coming of age doubts and insecurities, fun and energetic family dynamic (with a few family secrets thrown in) and slow burn crushing complete with late night in the dark chats. Things are predictable but in that kind of way that you savour the anticipation of how things will unfold.

I love curling up with books like this. Complete happy-making escapism -- smiley teenage angst that's a perfect blend of light with just enough emotional depth to tug on your heart in the right moments. I am so sold on Kasie West and am officially insanely excited for her next title, The Fill-in Boyfriend. (May 5, 2015)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Head of the River by Pip Harry

'Flows fast and deep and occasionally treacherous. I loved it.’ - Simmone Howell, author of Everything Beautiful and Girl Defective

It's the most elite school sporting event in the country. Nine rowers, 2000 gruelling metres and one chance for glory in the ultimate team sport. Sit forward ... ROW. 

Tall, gifted and the offspring of Olympians, superstar siblings Leni and Cristian Popescu are set to row Harley Grammar to victory in the Head of the River. 
With six months until the big race, the twins can't lose. Or can they? 

When Cristian is seduced by the easy route of performance-enhancing drugs, and Leni is suffocated with self-doubt, their bright futures start to fade. Juggling family, high expectations, study, break-ups, new relationships and wild parties, the pressure starts to build. 

As the final moments tick down to the big race, who’ll make it to the start line? And who'll plummet from grace?

Head of the River by Pip Harry was a highlight of my 2014 reading year. It was absorbing and captivating, unpredictable and unique and is a brilliant addition to our much-praised and thriving Aussie YA scene. 

Pip Harry is one of those YA authors who capture the teen voice and experience so authentically and without condescension. Her characters are brave and true and flawed and the kind of teen who, were I to meet them in real life, have the power to inspire adults with their courage and intelligence (in spite of making some foolish decisions ;) ). 

One of the reasons I love contemporary YA is because it's a genre that lends itself so well to capturing emotion and placing readers in the characters shoes. Harry excels at this: the emotion and passion and pressure is captured so viscerally -- giving an immediacy and realness to everything Leni and Cristian go through.  It's incredible -- the kind of commitment and dedication it takes for teenagers to train and compete and perform. 

While Head of the River centres around Lani and Cristian's rowing -- there are just so many more themes that seamlessly blend into the work.  Though the themes could lend itself to something more heavy-going, Harry's prose reads effortlessly and I found myself sailing through, finding it all too easy to keep reading just-one-more-chapter. 

The strength of Harry's writing is how the characters are so honest on the pages. They have hopes and fears and keep secrets, they crush and swoon and are let down. This is a story that explores highs and lows.  One thing I loved: while some plot threads were heading towards obvious disaster or conflict -- nothing was predictable and everything played out so organically it felt real. 

So highly recommended. I hope many more readers have the chance to read Head of the River. Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out for Harry's next book :D

Head of The River @ goodreads
Pip Harry's site

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Titles I am so very much looking forward to

I love a fresh start to my reading year and looking forward to all the goodness that is to come. I am considerably out of the loop in terms of even knowing what is coming out. I also find it hard to work out if some of my fave authors have upcoming books (particularly Aussie authors as the publishers often don't reveal upcoming titles until a month or two beforehand). Desperate for anything by Jaclyn Moriarty, Liane Moriarty or Nicola Moriarty (that sisterly trifecta of pure genius). And, as always, hanging out for Cath Crowley's upcoming (?) novel...

Here's ten picks that have me really glad 2015 is here already and that these books are not too far away (yay!). Links in titles go to goodreads.

Dying to get my hands on the final instalment. Desperate for more of Rafa (haha), and Gaby, too, obviously ;). I am planning to read Shadows, Haze and Shimmer in the week before Burn's release. Really looking forward to that, too. (I have been saving my reread up despite being tempted a few times)

I loved The Winner's Curse and am so hoping to continue my loving streak for #2 in this series (I do have a tendency to sometimes lose the love for series in between titles sometimes...I doubt that will happen here :))

I loved Hand's Unearthly trilogy, despite it not even being my genre (and I have looked past the fact that my fave guy was like picking Gale again, haha). Now she has written in my fave genre and I am so excited to check it out. I have a feeling I am going to love this book <3

It feels like I have been waiting on another Donna Freitas book for a long time and it's finally nearly here. I was hanging out for this before the blurb, which sounds not exactly my thing? (I'm not too fond of the Gone Girl comparison) but I am still aching to get reading as I love her characters and the way she cuts to the emotion (as well as brings some good contemporary YA swoon)

Kasie West is a perfect rainy day comfort read and I need those kinds of books like crazy <3

I love Lisa Scroeder and have read all her titles. This upcoming one has the best premise (24 hours left on earth until an asteroid hits and destroys all left behind ~ one guy and one girl have a day of possibilities). I am so drawn to the title, the vibrant cover and the premise = madly enthusiastic for.

I loved the first two books in this series. I need to see how Rose is going, and I def need another fix of Jamie Forta... haha. Also, I am loving the vibe and title of this cover. I'm thinking my girl Rose is going to whip it this time round, lol

I love Ockler and I love the sound of this: seaside town + inspired by The Little Mermaid. 

The cover is brilliant, the blurb sounds so fantastic. I think this could be a real hit.

Love Emery Lord's writing in her debut so really hoping this is another book to keep me up all night. And I definitely need some more contemporary YA faves in 2015 ~ I've placed some hopes on this one.

I am pretty much hoping all these titles will be seen again here on my blog in my faves of 2015 list :D
 Are any of these on your radar? 
What are you most looking forward to that I need to know about?

x Nomes

Edit: For a hugely exciting and comprehensive list of 2015 titles to get excited about definitely check out Alpha Reader's post. It's epic and awesome and took me half an hour to go through ~ added so much anticipated goodness to my radar and TBR. I had already drafted this post before reading Alpha Readers' so I haven't changed my intial picks here but there are some o fher list that I definitely would have added. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fave Reads of 2014 ~ Top Ten Reads

So far I've had my faves of 2014 Part One, Faves of 2014 Part Two and now I attempt to refine all those awesome books down to my absolute-favourite top-ten list for 2014. Before I get to that though: here's a few stats from my personal reading for pleasure. I have not included books I read with my kids or books I read for uni.

Books Read: 94. Less than previous years but a happy-making good amount that is in balance with other life goals (although I had many more DNFs ~ 94 is the number or books I completed)
Number of rereads: 10 (I'd love to do more rereads in 2015, at least one per month)

Young Adult: 60
Adult Fiction: 34
Australian authors: 23

Of the 60 young adult titles only 26 were contemporary YA (this is my lowest year ever in my fave genre ~ so planning to make up for that in 2015)

Stats on how I got the books I read in 2014:

Bought: 8
Bought ebook: 4 (2 of these were short stories)
Gifted: 5
Library: 39
Library ebook: 17
From publisher/netgalley: 9
Own collection: 11 (these were mostly my rereads, lol)

I barely grew my own personal library this year: 13 new books all up, including the ones that I received as gifts. I usually only buy books I am ridiculously excited for and think I will absolutely love and need want to keep. Of the 8 I bought myself, I've already given away 3 that I (sadly!) didn't fall in love with.

Since moving to a larger city I definitely buy less books and get a ton more from my library. (My last library was regional and didn't have as vast a collection). I also love my library's ebook collection. Since starting uni I am blogging so much less and as a result prefer not to receive review copies and wait for my library to purchase the books instead. While I'd love to own many of the books I just feel too pressured with review deadlines to justify asking for review copies. (Also, assessment deadlines provide enough stress already!)

My top Nine Picks for the year (I just couldn't fill that 10th spot!)
In no particular order...

My absolute fave read <3

So much love. Always unputdownable, hilarious, clever and lingering.

By choosing the first in the series as my fave pick, I really mean the whole series ;) 
Creative and epic and haunting

You all know how much I love this series <3

A surprise favourite, it came and broke a torturous book slump. 
A lot of love from me <3 

I can't go past this. 
This holds a special place in my heart, truly eye-opening and heartbreaking but also hopeful.

After contemplating for days, I've decided I like this second book in the Sevenwaters series even more than the first. And I loved the first! BRAN <3

Here's the first. Gorgeous and lyrical and heartbreaking and brave and romantic. 

I have to include Honey Brown as she really grabs me and has me staying up all night, flipping those pages and entirely sucked into the story. Also, I could not guess where this psychological thriller was headed ~ love that!

I have struggled to fill my 10th spot. I'm pretty much tossing up between about 6-8 contemporary YA titles, all of which I loved reading, but none is a clear stand-out absolute fave read of the year. So I decided to end the agony and finish with nine picks. The contemporary titles I was considering have been mentioned in my prior two posts: Faves Part one, Faves Part Two. (Although I am truly shocked that an end of year fave reads list from me is missing a single contemporary YA fiction title!) 

Interestingly, 6 of these 9 are by Australian authors. Or should that adverb be predictably? Haha, who knows?

Hope you've all started out your 2015 reading year strong! I've been adding books to my TBR like mad after reading through my blog feed. Here's to another awesome year of reading (and to smashing through reading slumps!)

x Nomes

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Faves of 2014 ~ Part Two: The Characters (& Random awards)

Heya! Welcome to Part Two of my fave reads of 2014 series :)

I have three posts celebrating my favourite reads of 2014. Part One has a stack of fave books in all genres and Part Three will be me (finally) narrowing down my top ten picks. I really wanted to take the time do do these first two parts so that I could highlight so many more awesome reads than just my personal top ten. 

Part Two: The Characters

1. Favourite female main character

Gaby from Shimmer, Kestrel from The Winner's Curse, Rebecca from The Road Home

I really love what Paula Weston is doing with Gaby and how she is coming into her own and I've loved seeing her character arc over the three books so far. Kestrel is just fab, she has so many awesome qualities and is really likeable. And Rebecca Phillips, wow, she's tough and likeable and made me ache in so many ways, I loved her so much.

2. Favourite male main character

Elliot! from Cracks in the Kingdom by jaclyn Moriarty

I promise I am not going to choose this book for all my answers, haha. But Elliot is truly completely awesome. He's charming in this perfectly wry way, he is effortlessly likeable and appealing, loyal and smart with the right amount of vulnerability, and he's loads fun (argh, everything sounds cliche and bland, but trust me, he is awesome!). To borrow a quote from the book, here's how Madeleine describes him: " the boy who knew exactly how to make a girl feel like some kind of carbonated sugar drink was running through her veins" (p.382) I get that feeling, too, lol! 

3. Best couple <3

Karou & Akiva, Gaby and Rafa, Red and Sorcha, Liadan and Bran

So this really was hard. And I have definitely picked four couples who have these epic, complicated love stories. I am so for all these couples and all of their love stories really beat strong at the hearts of their (respective) books. (This is really weird writing about them in plural). Major swoon for all these books.

4. Who I so want to be best friends with

The Cello crew!

Elliot and Princess Ko and their special group of teens. Oh my gosh ~ if only I could join them, haha. I would die of laughing and it would be a good death (Laughing in fun times and hilarity together). I just said I wasn't going to pick this book over and over...

5. Who I fell completely in love with (new literary crush)

Well, obviously I am crushing hard on those boys from above (Q3 best couples: Rafa and Bran and Akiva and Red) and they are my fave picks -- but for this question I'll choose some fun contemporary YA swoon. Not as epic as the boys above, but if you're looking for swoony and fun and smiley try out these four books:

The Art of Lainey, Confessions of an Angry girl, Open Road Summer, and On The Fence

Confessions of an angry girl: complicated bad boy angsty sexy swoon in the form of jamie Forta

On The Fence: Boy next door friendship (one of my fave coupling scenarios) = lots of late night fence talking and swooning

The Art of Lainey: Micah is tattoed and artsy-cool chef-boy who gets caught up with Lainey in a fake-date scenario. Very fun. Definitely a swoony set-up that majorly delivers :)

Open Road Summer: Matt Finch ~ super cute musician type. Definite highlight of the book (just FYI)

7. Best character twist (who you loved then hated or vice versa)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before and Trouble

Not sure if it was intentional but, mate, I considered abandoning both these books due to not clicking with the MC's. One too whiny and childish (The Jenny Han book, very painful initially) and one really wild and off-putting (Non Pratt's Trouble) which didn't seem like it would be my kind of read BUT am I ever glad I persevered. Out of these, Trouble was a definite highlight, it turned really good and I so recommend it. I ended up loving the second half of the Han book but am still perplexed as to why the MC was so immature and ridiculous at the beginning? ...

8. Best kick-arse female

Not A Drop to Drink and Head of the River

Lynn (Not a Drop to Drink) is really tough and relentless in guarding her home, which makes her vulnerabilities really achey. She's fierce and independent and completely admirable.

Leni (Head of the River) is determined and committed and so disciplined. She's fierce and gutsy and I loved bit-by-bit getting under that tough exterior. Really admire her as a character and all Harry did with her.

9. Best kick-arse male

Bran from Son of the Shadows

Oh, hello, Bran! haha. This guys is fierce and kick-arse to the point of being completely intimidating and terrifying. He is the ultimate kick-arse leader and the first to come to mind (even though there are other contenders for this role from books I have read this year) 

10. Broke your heart the most

Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips from The Road Home, also Jewel from Bird

Both broke my heart in different ways (although the Road Home had a profound affect on me overall)

12. Best YA parents award

On the Fence by Kasie West and Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

Both not conventional parents but I love the family vibe so much I couldn't go past these two
On The Fence is a single dad and older brothers set-up and I loved their interactions, so awesomely done.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone ~ love Karou's family with Brimstone and the Chimaeras ~ Taylor created such a great family vibe from a non-conventional family <3

13. Favourite sibling relationship

Gaby and Jude, obviously from Paula Weston's Rephaim series

These two have the best vibe and connection and I love watching their relationship unfold and their memories reveal different sides to their love for each other.

...moving on from character-focus to some random book awards to highlight a few more fave reads:

14. Best first chapter

The Girl With All the Gifts by M R Carey
I love thinking about first chapters and I really felt instantly engaged with The Girl With All The Gifts. The voice was captivating and the premise intriguing from the very beginning. Plus it was also easy to read and get into :)

15. Best climax

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Liane's book had brilliant pacing all the way through but it just came together so spectacularly I was on the edge of my seat and it did not let me down. Another brilliant book!

16. Best plot twist/revelation (no spoilers!)

Charm & Strange, We Were Liars & Dark Horse

All three of these teased really well and the reveal was great. 
We Were Liars was eerie and sad
Charm & Strange had me unsure and intrigued the whole way through
Dark Horse was riveting and so very well done, with atmosphere and not knowing who to trust and what was going on. Even after some reveals, the next stage of the novel was just as complex and had me wondering how it was all play out.

17. Fave book title 

Six titles I love: Night of Cake and Puppets, The Girl With All the Gifts, Big Little Lies, Cooper Bartholomew is Dead, And All the Stars, Charm & Strange

18. Can’t believe you waited this long to read the book (!)

Laini Taylor's series, Confessions series & Sevenwaters, 

Well here's three series that have been out for a while and I've seen around and had no idea I woul love them so! All three of them came highly recommended but i ignored due to thinking they were not my genre or my kind of book. On the upside ~ it was so awesome to just read Laini's books back to back (so I did not have to struggle to remember all that had come before).

19. Book that lived up to (or superseded the hype)

The Winner's Curse, Daughter of Smoke and Bone & Daughter of the Forest

I haven't said much about The Winner's Curse. For me it was definitely a case of perfect book at the perfect time. I read it after a string of books I had trudged through and it was awesome having a book that I constantly wanted to get back to, reminding me of those perfect reading experiences of being sucked in and addicted. The other two books here are really top quality in their genre and deserving of all the praise.
20. Killer cliffhanger award

Shimmer, The Winner's Curse

Shimmer because now I am desperate for #4 (the final book in the series). It left off right where I want to be with the series! So so excited for the last instalment (understatement).
The Winner's Curse because so much has come to pass and I am so desperate to see where the series heads now.

That's it for Part Two. On a separate note: thanks for all the lovely comments. it is so good hearing from you guys after my blogging break. I really appreciate every comment and feel likeI'm catching up with old friends. I am short on time to visit blogs and reply to my comments atm* but plan to do so in the next couple of days 

x Nomes

*due to many (lengthy) hospital visits and I will be having an overnight stay tomorrow with my daughter while she has surgery on her arm. I plan on getting some solid hours of reading in and hopefully finding another fave book before the year closes out :)