Friday, March 20, 2015

Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier

It's the Carnevale of 1750 and Venice's ballrooms, theatres, palazzos and squares are filled with delicious gossip, devilish fun and dangerous games. In this glittering masked world, everyone has a secret...

Set in an age of decadence made famous by Casanova, Masquerade uncovers the secrets of seven teens, from the highest aristocrat to the lowest servant – their dreams, desires, loves, loyalties ... and betrayals.

All the world's a stage. Let the show begin.

Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier is an Aussie YA debut set in 1750 Venice during the Carnivale. It came to me highly recommended by a real life reader buddy who said it was really good and different to anything else she had read. I am so glad for that rec, as a few chapters in I was  not sure Masquerade was 'my kind' of book (I was not looking for a Gossip Girl-esque book set in a different era, which I had thought this might be due to the blurb). Oh, man, thankfully I set in for the long haul and ended up being completely swept into Fornasier's world and story. 

I loved the characters and the way their paths criss-crossed. Fornasier clearly developed them all and their voices were unique, each thread/POV was intriguing and had depth. Here's the thing with the characters: there are 7 POVs. Wild, hey? Do not let that deter you. There are only a couple of POVs that are main, the others being granted brief timely flashes which add to the overall story-line and intrigue. There's some tension with one girl liking a boy who ends up liking a different girl, and those two girls (friends) handle their relationship so well, with no overwrought angst or drama. In fact, the novel deals with tragic and sorrowful circumstances, society/parental expectations, star-crossed lovers, first crushes, sneaky and underhanded real-stakes dares and a myriad of problems and they are all handled with finesse ~ no melodrama, just an aching honestly and an underlying tension that drives readers through the story to see where Fornasier is taking us and how things will work out (one of my favourite things about this novel is how I had no idea how things would pan out ~ loved that!). 

I can't not mention the setting which comes alive in all it's glittering glory. The time period is dazzling and authentic and I felt like I was there amongst the drama and excitement of Carnivale. 

The lead in to the climax all the way to the conclusion was so beautifully done. All the threads came together and nothing was predictable. In fact, the ending was so astonishingly gorgeous and captivating and haunting and unexpected that I finished the book and just lingered there (in Venice, with the characters) in my mind for sometime after. I would most definitely be up for a sequel should Fornasier want to continue to explore her characters lives.

I didn't think this would be my kind of read. I am not hugely into historical, certainly not fond of YA gossip and drama stuff, but it was completely genuine and addictive (especially once I passed the halfway mark when all the threads start colliding and I didn't want to put it down). If you're looking for a read that is sparkling and unique, beautiful and glittering, unexpected and a little bit haunting you should definitely pick up Masquerade. It's an underrated gem that is a favourite read of mine so far this year.

Masquerade @ goodreads
Kylie Fornasier's website
Kylie Fornasier on pinterest
Kylie Fornasier on twitter

full book jacket in all it's lushness

Monday, March 16, 2015

Updating inkcrush: Aussie YA

inkcrush is approaching it's 5 year blogoversary ~ so, I've been taking some time to update a few pages that had woefully fallen by the wayside (*insert Birds of Tokyo song here*). I made the Aussie YA page so long ago now as a way to shout out about some of my fave and nostalgic home grown YA reads. I have updated it somewhat (sporadically) over the years but I have just added some fresh new authors whose work I really love and I think you'll like them, too. 

I actually don't know if anyone even reads my Aussie YA page (haha, who knows?) and I even feel a tad foolish writing my little mini-tiny author blurbs as I get all repetitive and basically just want to say: Gah! Loved it! Read it! Etc, etc. But I am aiming to sound slightly more ... coherent than that

Here's 9 new authors I've recently added ~ and a little about their books (which I really liked so very much and absolutely recommend). You can also find more Aussie authors I love on the page (with updates for many as new works have been released since I originally added them on there).

Sarah Ayoub
Her debut is smart and articulate, brave and honest, swoony and fun. I love her prose and her characters and the way her work appeals to teens of today.

A J Betts
Her characters are messy and complicated and hopeful and true. Betts writes books that are brave and honest and doesn't shy away from emotions that are raw and painful. Her books shine and linger and offer something unique and compelling for Australian teens.

Pip Harry
Pip Harry is one of those YA authors who capture the teen voice and experience so authentically and without condescension. Harry's writing is fresh and real and I expect she will go from strength to strength with each new work. Both her books are compelling, unique and memorable.

Rebecca James
Gorgeous, evocative writing. Total Ausse vibe and setting. twist, unputdownable psychological thrillers with older YA (uni age) protags. James knows how to suck you in and keep you up all night.

Juliet Marillier
I am so late to this party, but, mate, what a party it is! Working my way through her backlist now and savouring every morsel. Stunning fairy tale and folk lore retellings with characters that make you bleed (and also swoon a little, haha). I've started with the Seven waters series and they are breaking my heart and piecing me back together again. 

Ellie Marney
Splashed on the scene with her messy, zingy and complicated Melbourne-based (and then London, followed by small country-town) sleuthing series inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Fun, gritty and adrenalin pumping action. Also, be prepared for many moments of chemistry giving the series an upper YA vibe.

Christie Nieman
Her debut is a beautiful, compelling and utterly original story that marches to it's own exquisite beat. Loved it.

Jessica Shirvington
Total surprise love from me. Her ideas are fresh, characters flawed and likeable and her execution is engaging. Between the Lives is breezy and compelling. Her Disruption duology is a complicated but totally imaginable dystopianish high tech future. Also, she brings the swoon

Claire Zorn
Zorn has blasted on to the Aussie YA scene with two very compelling and real novels. Love her fresh, engaging and real style. The Sky So Heavy is for fans of Tomorrow When the War Began and The Protected is one that may catch your emotions by surprise. So excited for more from Zorn. Both books featured in my top reads of (their respective) release years.

Another new thing

I recently made a list on goodreads titled 2015 Aussie YA Releases. So far I've added 13 Aussie YA books I know are coming out this year but I know there must be more, so feel free to add away (And really hoping for Jaclyn Moriarty's #3 in the Colours of Madeleine series to be a 2015 release... anyone have news on that?) *Please note I just added the books in order that I came across them, not in order of my anticipated faves ;) It's be good to see the list grow so I can build some good anticipation for new Aussie faves coming our way :D

Saturday, March 7, 2015

3 Mini Reviews (a thriller, a chick lit & a YA)

3 Mini reviews: a thriller, a chick lit and a YA ... walked into a bar, haha. Ahh, amusing myself :)

The Girl on the Train

'Gripping, enthralling - a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read' S J WATSON, bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Sometimes you know a book is objectively very good but it is not the book for you. 

This is not one of those times. 

I was so bored while reading The Girl on the Train I am genuinely baffled at how most people have found this to be suspenseful and riveting. I read on, hoping for a plot twist or something that would blow my mind. I anticipated up-all-night reading and a deliciously satisfying book hangover. 

Instead I got (mostly unlikable) unreliable narrators, a sprinkling of red herrings and carefully doled out information (held back by a main character having selective amnesia) and a very ordinary reveal that made me wish I had listened to my gut and abandoned this 25% in (which is when I could no longer deny I was finding things tedious and boring).

Hawkins does do a good job at setting things up and at making you glad you are living your ordinary suburban life and are not one of her heroines. I genuinely felt for Rachel and the depiction of alcoholism was painfully bleak and harrowing. as far as psychological thrillers go, my fave author remains Honey Brown.

I am obviously the outlier on this, so you should probably still give it a go (it is one of the biggest buzz books capturing people's attention so far this year).

Written in the Stars by Ali Harris
Bea Bishop is horrible at making decisions. Forget big life ones, even everyday choices seem to paralyse her. She's learned to live with this because experience has taught her that it doesn't matter what you do, no one has the power to control destiny. Anyone who believes they can is a fool. 

But as her wedding day approaches, her years of indecision are weighing heavily on her, and she can't help but wonder, 'What if, what if, what if….' 

What if she hadn't upped sticks and moved to London? What if she hadn't grabbed the first job that came along and settled down with the first guy who showed an interest? But all of her questions are silenced when she slips while walking down the aisle and is knocked unconscious. In this split second her life splits into two: in one existence, Bea flees back down the aisle and out of the church. In the other she glides blissfully towards her intended.
But which story will lead to her happily ever after?

Ali Harris handled the logistics of Written in The Stars so amazingly. It is a 'Sliding Doors' concept where we get to see two future timelines played out: one where Bea marries the guy, the other where she leaves him standing at the altar (and explores the possibility of love with an old flame). It was always clear to me which timeline I was following and I loved the creativity in the way the story lines crisscrossed, not just for our MC, but also for her family and friends (whose lives unfolded differently in each timeline). It could not have been easy to map out this concept yet Harris makes it an effortless read. It was also not predictable as to how it would all end (which was a huge drive for reading on).

Having said all that ~ I personally just didn't connect to the characters and the overall writing style. I love the idea of the chick lit genre* but am ridiculously bored or fickle with it, liking the beginning and then fizzing out part way through (not specifically talking about this book here as boring).

If the premise of Written in the Star intrigues you, and you love this genre, it's definitely a book you should scout out and see what you think (the ratings on GR are high, you guys)

* I gotta say, I don't even know if I am applying the classification chick-lit correctly half the time. Is that a thing? And, if so, should it be hyphenated (lol ~ but seriously, that part's important)? I am so clueless here.

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

The set-up, opener and first half of this book is stunning and mesmerising. The storm (hurricane) is captured so powerfully as a massive force of nature and it was brilliant to be in this electrifying and all-encompassing wild weather event alongside our teen MC, Jersey. Who doesn't love a good storm, hey? It wasn't just the storm that drew me in: the writing is nuanced and engaged all my senses. 

Then there's the storm fall-out. Jersey was alone during the storm and she sets out to see if her mum, sister, step-dad and friends survived. There were a lot of casualties and this was heart-in-your-mouth heartbreaking, to see the wreckage and grief of an entire community. 

No spoilers here but midway the book changes direction as Jersey's life is turned upside down from the events of the storm and she can no longer live at home so she is sent to live with her estranged maternal grandparents. 

This is where things fell apart for me. I felt muddled as if I was reading two books ~ one where there is an amazing natural disaster and heartbreaking fall-out. The other (second half) where there was some over-the-top villainous style family issues that had me scratching my head (metaphorically, haha) and disengaging as a reader. The relationships felt bizarre, the character were caricatures with motivations I could not fathom and the pacing and general story arc felt really confusing to me at this point (where was all this headed and what is this book even about!!?!). I wish the book had focused more on Jersey and the storm and picking up the pieces after and not added all these weird family dynamics and theatrics.

I don't often review books that don't work for me. I really like shouting-out about all my faves and sharing the book love. But, I also like to have bit of book chat when books don't work for me, for whatever reasons. 
What's the last book you read that you just couldn't connect to?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

Kate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.

As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request ... and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic. 

Did you read that blurb? lovelove. First the cover (and title) snatched me and then the blurb had me hooked. I love finding books that I've heard nothing about and taking them home with me along with the promise of finding something special.

This Irish chick-lit(ish) tale has small elements of magical realism and a fun vibe that's a smidgen reminiscent of Sophie Kinsella/Meg Cabot (that's the best I can think to describe the style, with it's humour and quirky protag and her family and friends, but it's still not quite the perfect descriptor as O'Neill has her own distinct flavour going on). 

Reluctantly Charmed is whimsical with a plot that is wild in it's vision and escalating drama. I loved that about it (the unharnessed charm, marching along to it's own Irish beat). The setting is charming (Dublin! and then countryside Ireland!). 

I loved the off-beat vibe that felt distinctly Irish (and otherworldly to this Aussie girl here) ~ from it's rowdy pubs to it's superstitious folklore of eras gone by. Who wouldn't want to be charmed by the possibility of fairies. But not all fairies are good, or are they even real? There's an element of the unknown with foreshadowing on certain characters and there's also manic momentum as each successive letter is published, bringing with them more bedlam, uncertainty and promise.

There is a hot Irish-charm-swoon guy (which I would have welcomed more pages devoted to him, haha). He's a little elusive but brings all that sexual tension and leaves it in his wake.

My one criticism, for me as a reader, is even though the plot was always moving forward and all elements/scenes felt essential, there was just so many threads going on that it really cluttered things up towards the end and seemed to make the ending drag out a little and events take forever to finally unfold. Although, this could have been reader's anxiety ~ desperate to power through and see how the climax explodes all over the place and how the resolution would tie up (you will not guess it, guys). 

I love how unexpected the whole book is and it's effortless smiley, breezy style with a wholly original premise (although some elements touched on chick-lit tropes). And that wicked ending! Woah ~ beautiful mix of surreal and real, perfect and painful, sexy and surprising. One minute I was grinning away, smashing through the pages and the next I was startled and genuinely touched...

I liked it, truly, a lot. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about getting back to reading it. And when I was reading it, often post-midnight and drowsy in bed, I was forcing my eyelids open to keep going in true book-addict-just-one-more-page style. Pumped to see what Ellie O'Neill has next and so glad to have found a new fave author <3

Australian cover
International cover

Both covers are stunning! The Aussie one even has little 3D sparkly fairies on it (which you can't see through your screen, haha ~ they are not the white fairies you see, they're even tinier and sprinkled about) 
Which cover do you like best?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Five Things

1. Currently reading:

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler. I love Ockler and this contemporary YA has a different vibe to her other work, it's very lyrical and a bit fairy-tale-esque. I'm liking it so far but more so in a curious way (really leaning in and seeing where it is heading) than in an I-am-so-in-love-with-this-already. However, there is a promise of good things to come.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. This is my first reread of this novel and it's so interesting rereading it as the first time I flew through all dying-to-know what the secret was and how it would all come together. I love Liane's words and her characters and it feels like visiting with old friends.

2. Aussie blogger Jess is celebrating her 5th blogoversary (yay!) and giving away 5 signed Aussie ya novels (some of my absolute faves are in there!) Entry closes in 2 days (26th of Feb) so head on over to The Tales Compendium and check it out. Jess is a long time blogger with huge love for Aussie YA and is one of the first blogs I ever followed ~ I'm so thrilled she is still thriving 5 years on :)

Jess's blogoversary giveaway

3. Speaking of Jess's blog, a little while ago she interviewed me for her blogoversary celebrations. I chat about:

4. Text publishing is accepting admissions for their annual Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing starting March 2. Here's some info from Text and link to the entry form:

The entry form can be found here at the Text Publishing website: and I'll also attach the form to this email.
The prize is open to writers of all ages based in Australia and New Zealand, only hard copy submissions delivered by post are accepted. Further terms and conditions can be found on the entry form.
Previous winners of prize have gone on to become bestsellers, award-winners and international rights successes. This year Text will publish more YA/Children's than ever before as we continue to grow this part of our publishing repertoire. The Text Prize is a headline act of that repertoire and we look forward to growing it further in 2015.

I love text publishing and their high calibre of unique and engrossing books. They have published some of my recent fave Aussie YA books ~ really looking forward to following the award and subsequent book deals :)

5. Next up: I am really excited to check out debut Aussie YA author's 1750 historical drama set in Venice (Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier). I've heard it's stunning and brilliant and wildly different and appealing.  I have hopes it will become a new fave for me (It has a rating of 4.21 on goodreads, which is always promising!). 

What do you guys think of the cover of Masquerade? 

I am also haunting my book shop for The Winner's Crime which is due to appear any day now. Hoping it come out in time for a weekend of lazing about and reading. The Aussie edition is red. 
I would love to know what you have been reading lately and if you've found any new faves!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I ignored this book for a while. The cover is visually stunning but I scrolled on by thinking, blah...paranormal romance...blah, but then seeing it pop up again and again on best of 2014 lists and properly pausing to read reviews from people I trust (like Angieville and Keertana of Ivy Book Bindings) had me reserving this baby from my library. 

Mate, I was sucked in and enveloped into this visually (well, in the mind's eye, haha) stunning, and utterly compelling read. This re-imagined fairy tale is lush and intricate and full of mysteries, sexual tension and unique mythology. 

I love how Hodge took a classic fairy tale and made it her own (adding in a slice of Greek mythology, as well). Nothing was as I expected, veering from Beauty and the Beast in creative ways to put a unique and unpredictable twist on things. The conflicts and character motivations were so well crafted. Nothing came easily, with dark and haunting mythology. The setting was richly portrayed, with a shifting maze of a castle (hidden passages and rooms and secrets within secrets which make the world Hodge created richer and more sophisticated than at first glance).

To elaborate on the sexual tension (always a stand-out feature if done well, haha): It's enigmatic and antagonistic. Both Ignifex and Nyx have conflicting interests/motivations. Nothing is straight up and the attraction between them is not just compelling to read due to their interactions (which are heated/funny/tense/daring/charming/deadly), but has added depth due to watching their struggles and growth as characters and knowing the sacrifices and secrets they hold. 

This book wins the up-all-night prize, keeping me turning pages into the squeaky hours of the morning, finishing with that rush you get from being completely absorbed by a good tale, leaving me with a book hangover (which ~ thankfully ~ only lasted until I got my hands on some of Hodge's short stories ~ but that's another tale for another time)

I loved this. And now I'm thrilled to have another title to be insanely excited to read in May this year, Crimson Bound, inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Cannot wait!

Cruel Beauty @ goodreads
Rosamund Hodge's Website (short stories and more)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January: Mini Reviews and Other Things

I love January, long summer nights, kids home on summer holidays and so much reading time = bliss! I trawled a lot of blogs at the beginning of the month and stole a heap of reading recommendations from Faves of 2014 lists and pretty much maxed out my library card, ever hopeful to find a new favourite book. 

Mostly I had a lot of DNFs, haha. This is mainly due to being overly ambitious with trying books that don't sound like my thing, and then they turn out to not be my thing... However, I love that I flew through so many titles on my TBR to shrink it down a little. 

I read: 14 books all up (that number will shrink for following months as uni starts again in one week).

1. Here's two mini reviews from books I read in January (basically an unedited immediate reader reaction I threw up on goodreads)

Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier

Both the first two books in the series ended up in my top ten of 2014 listI really liked the premise of this (a flawed, villianously conflicted MC) and loved being back in the Sevenwaters world. However, this took me forever to read. At times I just felt it dragged on and not much at all happened, then suddenly major! exciting! events would unfold and then it would fall back into a lull again. Maybe it's just me not being that great at fantasy (I can be an impatient reader at times and this book requires settling in for the long haul). Or maybe this book needed a good hundred or so pages cut out? haha. Either way, Marillier is a gifted writer and I am hopeful I'll enjoy the next book in the series a little more than this one. 

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2015. While it was captivating it didn't end up being a new favourite for me. I love Hand's writing, she creates characters and worlds that feel real. I was drawn into this story and there's no denying that the grief and devastation and the messy, hopeless aftermath of suicide is captured so well. Hand really focused on family relationships here (sibling love, divorced parents, mother-daughter, father-daughter, forgiveness and resentment). 

I felt like I was navigating those same feelings while reading the book, and I guess that is a sign of author success? Personally, I felt so drained and exhausted upon completion. I wish there had been some reprieve or even brief moments of levity sprinkled throughout. 

[Selfishly, I missed some of the swoon factor that Hand did so well with Tucker and Christian in Unearthly, although it would have been out of place in this book.] 

 As far as YA suicide books go, it is another strong addition to the genre. 

2. I reread three books this month and am so keen to reread more favourites. I never regret making time for rereads. So good to revisit fave characters and worlds. My fave reread was Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan. My gosh, I just love that book so much, it is still as brilliant and captivating as ever. It's an incredibly moving post-apocalyptic fantasy (set in our future, where the world is in eternal winter and the seas and sun are like a myth from long forgotten times). It also has much love on goodreads <3 (rating of 4.34 from 1,391 ratings ~ really great from a book first published in 1993)

3. New books!

I am a huge book scavenger and my fave place to check for second hand books is Salvos and also Bloomfield (a little cancer charity shop opposite my daughter's school). Salvo's had a $1 book sale and I was so selective (I only pick up books that I really want to own). I got 4 Aussie YA's and a copy of Bitterblue to go alongside Graceling and Fire.  

4. Books to look forward to

I added some more awesome books to my tbr. A new Honey Brown (have to wait until May)! Also a new Paullina Simons to look out for (April). I used to love her, back in the day, haha ~ so I'll be checking this out even though I have moved on a bit I'm still hopeful for some good escapism :)

Plus two stunnings covers for two contemporary YA novels. I first spotted these on Angieville and the both sound like my kind of read (fingers crossed I'll find a new fave here). Made You Up by Francesca Zappia and Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

5. My fave read of the month: 
These two babies by Rosamund Hodge! Goes to show it does pay to try out books that don't seem like my thing ~ fairy tale mythical retellings, both brilliantly imagined and very captivating. Full review coming!

What about you guys? Did you have a good reading month? 
What has been your favourite read so far?