Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Faves of 2015 ~ Top Twenty Reads

I'm bringing my fave reads of 2015 to you in January (month of the sleepy and sunny summer holidays!). 

Before i get to the books, 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: 92
Number of rereads: 15
I don't make numerical reading goals but my reading has been in the 90-100 books per year for the past 3 years, which is just shy of 2 books per week ~ a good amount for managing my bookish life with my other life commitments.

Young Adult: 59
Adult Fiction: 33
Australian authors: 33 (really happy that over a 1/3 of my reading was Australian ~ although I often feel like I am never going to read all the Aussie titles on my TBR ~ there are so many that came out in 2015 that I still have not gotten to...)

I love celebrating the discovery of new favourite books and this year I have 20 new faves (plus many more books I enjoyed my time with).  Some are literary masterpieces, some are brilliantly written and plotted, some are just plain fun or addictive comfort reads. All 20 of these titles have one thing in common: I was hooked and addicted. These books provided my favourite reading experiences of 2015 and I hope you find something here that you might also fall in love with. 

As always, many thanks to these amazing authors, who brought so much goodness to my reading life last year xx

Aussie YA Faves

Brilliant and sexy and addictive and genius end of to an all-time forever fave series of mine. So much love for this one, and yes, I've reread it already! My review.

Absolutely amazing and creative and genius and just completely perfect. This conclusion to the series blew my mind <3

The latest Fiona Wood was a perfect fit for me, all the Fiona Wood Aussie YA goodness we all love plus a gorgeous touch of whimsy and loads of heart. Review for this beauty to come!

Slightly bizzarre and deliciously surreal, this one is a new total fave for me. I loved it so much, I swallowed it whole. My review.

Smart and smiley and refreshing original. Loved so much about this: the premise and the twisty, brilliant and daring way everything some together. Williams is an outstanding author marching along to the beat of her own drum. This one is marketed as YA but with 4 POV's (some young adult age) it's perfect for fans of adult fiction, too. 

This was dazzling and unique and unexpected and wholly enjoyable. This is one underrated Aussie YA gem that I would love to see more people get swept up by this captivating and fun book. Also, really excited for Fornasier's sophomore title coming out in 2016! My review

Contemporary YA Faves

This one is for fans of good, relentlessly addictive books. And for people who are not afraid of heartache (blended just perfectly with the right amount of hope). So so good. I read this on 2 sittings, over one day <3

This book really is a stand-out in contemporary YA -- easy to sink into, heart-felt without ever venturing into melodrama, relate-able, fun and emotionally moving. The pacing is great and, if the mood hits you and you find your groove, you just may read it in one sitting (like I did!). Review to come! :)

Haha, this book was so fun. I loved the UK vibe, the dual POVs. The awkward moments, humour, and so very teen vibe about it all. I couldn't put this one down and finished it at 3am, with a ridiculous grin on my face. 

This book felt fresh and genuine and true and is my favourite brand of contemporary YA. I enjoyed the first half, but LOVED the second half, where I suddenly found myself caring deeply for the characters. What a gorgeous book!

I really enjoyed this one: fun and clever and full of emotional depth. This book broke a reading drought for me and had me smiling and invested the whole way through. My review

The conclusion (maybe? I'm hoping for more!) to a fave contemporary YA series of mine. It was very unexpected, the direction this book went in. It felt brave and sad but true and not without hope. Despite some sorrow, it was still sexy and fun and angsty and so good! I really do love this series and would love for it to keep going, somehow, to revisit the characters in a few years and see how they are doing x

Fave New Adult

I don't actually normally read this genre. Well, I do attempt it (but mostly abandon new adult titles part way in) but for some reason this really worked for me! Look, it was not without it's moments of melodrama (a staple of the genre?) but it also had a lot of heart and soul and characters I was totally rooting for. This was swoony and hot, with loads of tension and slow burn. So, check it out if you're a fan of the New Adult scene and hopefully you'll find this as deliciously addictive as I did :)

Fave Fantasy & Fairy Tale Retellings

I adore this series. Seriously DYING for The Winner's Kiss. This second book did everything right and I loved it. LOVED IT. 

Wow ~ I loved this. So much atmosphere and intrigue and a gorgeous foreign-vibe fantasy setting. The tortured and mysterious hero really worked for me, too, LOL. I've asked for this book for my shelves for my upcoming birthday, along with the sequel ~ it's a duology (April, you feel so far away!). 

 This re-imagined fairy tale is lush and intricate and full of mysteries, sexual tension and unique mythology. 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. I loved it, so much <3 My review.

Bonus book: a tiny short story (I wish it had been a full length novel!) A Cinderella re-imagining that was haunting and swoony and pretty much perfect!

Adult Fiction Faves

Oh my gosh. What an outstanding and haunting and gorgeous Aussie debut. I loved this so much and I have a half written draft review but all the words I say feel inadequate to capture this beauty of a book (so my review has been languishing unread :( ). All Aussies who belong to a library ~ track this one and sink into it <3

I don't know what it is about this book (at times I wasn't even sure what the central plot was), but it was just absorbing and felt so true to life. I loved it and am so glad I read it. My library has all of Anne Tyler's backlist, which is exciting after finding a new author, but I have no idea where to begin, so if there are any fans out there, I'd love to know your fave title of hers!

This had what I now think of as Clarke's signature features: wide open seas, wanderlust, mysteries and secrets, and swoon. It was addictive (so cleverly written, blending two timelines and leaving small timely clues). I am excited for anything Clarke writes! I am not entirely sure, but this may be my fave of hers yet. Really worth your time!

Such a charming, off-beat Irish vibe, a kind of chick-lit magical realism that was just fun and slightly ridiculous (in the best of ways). What  a gorgeous and fun and completely memorable read. Much, much love! My review. 

What a gorgeous looking bunch of brilliant books! 
Have you read and loved any of these? 
I'd love to know a couple of your faves from 2015 (link me up to a blog post if you have one or comment with a recommendation below)

Round-up of my previous end of year faves posts:

2013 Top Ten
2012 Top Ten
2011 Part One (the books) Part Two (characters) Part Three (scenes) Part Four (faves)
2010 Faves  and Aussie YA faves

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker #loveozya

What if your identical twin sister was a murderer? Does that make you a monster too? A profound, intense, heartbreaking fantasy that tackles issues of fate versus free will, and whether you can ever truly know someone.

Caught in a dreamscape, mistaken for a killer ... will Alice find a way home?

Three years ago, Alice's identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the same face as a monster. She's struggling with her identity, and with life in the small Australian town where everyone was touched by the tragedy. Just as Alice thinks things can't get much worse, she encounters her sister on a deserted highway. But all is not what it seems, and Alice soon discovers that she has stepped into a different reality, a dream world, where she's trapped with the nightmares of everyone in the community. Here Alice is forced to confront the true impact of everything that happened the day her twin sister took a gun to school ... and to reveal her own secret to the boy who hates her most.

In the Skin of a Monster is stunning, deliciously off-beat and totally absorbing. Completely unlike anything I was expecting or have read before and, even once I found my footing and got into the groove of the world, Barker still managed to twist things around until I was left with an unexpected lump in my throat and tears down my cheeks.

I didn’t read the blurb of this properly (common habit with me, I skim and dive in). I thought this was a contemporary novel -- but it’s a more genre-defying, drums-along-to-it’s-own-beat kind of book. I often struggle at classifying books but I would say this is fantastical while also having a contemporary reality mingled in. The novel is mostly set in a dreamscape -- in a town identical to the real-life Aussie outback country town, but this version is where the dreams the people in the town dream at night come to life. Like in a dream, things seem similar but are a bit off kilter. And, in this town, a lot of the people have been having nightmares... making the dream world ever-deadly. Confused yet? Ha, well, that’s part of the appeal. Starting this book felt a little like On The Jellicoe Road, or This is Shyness -- the reader is thrown in -- to gorgeous writing and unexpected situations -- and the reader has to fend for themselves a little (but don't let that deter you, it was not a brain strain with epic world building, it was easy to slip into). I loved that about this book. It just launches straight in and gradually things are revealed, and it’s beautiful and amazing. 

It’s a visually stunning story (in my mind's eye) and totally haunting. There’s layers and depth, characters to care about (fabulous loyal and brave friendships with some enigmatic romance and swoon), and hard-hitting emotions that took my breath away.

This book is my sleeper hit of the year. Gorgeous and evocative and Aussie (that outback vibe!) and creative and original and harrowing just completely unexpected. The ending blew me away. I loved it. Everything about it.

In The Skin of a Monster @ goodreads

If you missed this book this year I am so urging you to bump it up your TBR ~ you might just find a new favourite like I have :)

x Nomes

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Burn by Paula Weston #loveozya

Suddenly, Gaby remembers everything.
For a year she believe she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother.

Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe: one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon-smiting badass and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa.

Now she knows who faked her memories, and how—and why it's all hurtling towards a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell.

More importantly, she remembers why she's spent the last ten years wanting to seriously damage Rafa.
Mate, it truly is a bittersweet feeling to come to the end of one of my fave book series. I have mentioned numerous times how much I love Paula Weston’s Rephaim series. Not only has each book delivered above and beyond my expectations, they have given me something special to look forward to each year (okay, they also drove me crazy -- I was desperate for each new installment). I have agonised over reviewing the 4th and final book in the series as it's hard encapsulate how much this series has meant to me.

I moved interstate in 2012 and Shadows (book one) was the first book I read in my new house. I was apprehensive about trying an angel-themed book (paranormal and I do not usually gel). I began with just checking out the 20 pages and was so hooked that I read it almost in one sitting, surrounded by boxes I should've been unpacking. Confession: I have since reread those first 20 pages numerous times, it remains one of my fave first chapters of any book. Such compelling writing, characters, a great hook and an amazing kiss-chemistry-intrigue scene with one of the coolest meet-cutes ever.

I have insanely looked forward to each annual release in the series and they have always always delivered, meaning June has been a reading month to get excited about for the past 3 years (what will I do without my fix in 2016?)

I don’t know what I can add to my already gushy reviews for this series (Shadows, Haze and Shimmer), so this review is a little ode to the series overall. The Rephaim series is my fave paranormal series and also one of my fave series of all time (any genre).

I finished Burn and had such a bad book hangover I actually went back and reread the first 3 books, and then Burn again. (and this was after rereading the first 3 books just prior to Burn’s release in preparation). I am already looking forward to my next reread (I'm spacing it out a little so hopefully some leftover first-read magic will still linger in the pages).

This series stood the test for me -- it wasn't just an awesome first-time gulp, but rereading was just as brilliant as the initial reads -- even better in some ways, now that I had formed better connections with the characters, it was like visiting old friends, rather than meeting new ones.

The slow burn build and antagonistic yet genuine-real-depth relationship between Gaby and Rafa is second to none. The pay-off in Burn is more than worth it and fans will be fanning themselves (haha, cheesy, but lol, it's true! ;))

Rafa. My gosh. Total babe. I am not overly swoony in books but I defy anyone not to be... at the very least, smitten, haha. Events in the 4th novel just made me crush harder, exposing new vulnerable and admirable qualities in him. He is in my top ten literary crushes ~ and he's a stand-out Aussie guy (for those who like their literary swoons Australian!)

The Aussie flavour and vibe is really unique and refreshing. Also, tangled in is lots of international settings, which I loved. Nothing beats being whisked away to foreign and rich settings when reading.

Weston’s plotting is impeccable. She weaves dual timelines and unveils threads that has readers guessing - dying -- to know what is really going on.

If you haven’t started these series yet, I don’t know where you have been (!!?!) but you need to rectify the situation asap. And, unlike early fans who waited an agonising year between each release, you can binge-read and get swallowed whole by the outstanding world Weston has created. The good news for me is I plan on revisiting Gaby and Rafa and Jude and the Rephaim in coming years - they have become fixtures in my literary life and, like all fave literary characters, I like to imagine them out there, living out their lives. I have the added bonus of living near some of Weston's location inspirations (such as Noosa on the Sunshine Coast) so when I visit Noosa, I always feel like I am in Gaby's world and I love love love that literary world blending into my real life.

I realise I haven't actually said much about Burn specifically. It was amazing. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I loved it.

Also, isn't the cover stunning? Such a gorgeous looking series x
Burn @ Goodreads 4.41 rating with over 1000 ratings
Burn @ Text Publishing
Paula Weston's blog
Paula Weston lives in Brisbane with her husband, a retired greyhound and a moody cockatiel. Burn is book four in The Rephaim series after ShadowsHaze and Shimmer.

Many thanks to Text Publishing for my gorgeous review copy!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Snoozing, saying hi and currently

I am resurrecting this sleepy little blog from an unplanned hibernation. It's been months of snoozing on here while I've been laying low in real life and taking time out from the internet and other commitments while I scuffle about with long-term health stuff. I have missed my blogging buddies (HI!) and reading what everyone is up to, and also seeing what books are making everyone happy lately -- and what books I should be getting excited for

I have been writing a handful of reviews over the last couple of weeks (I have gotten terribly rusty ~ but I hope my excitement/love/endorsement/feelings still shines through) and I'm really keen to get some book love happening on here as 2015 is rolling on towards it's countdown. I love this time of year, and I particularly love reflecting on what I've been reading and it wouldn't be the same without sharing some faves with you guys. I also get a little bit antsy in trying to squeeze as many last minute reads in as possible looking for those final few books to put on my faves of 2015 list.

Just finished reading: First & Then by Emma Mills. Debut contemporary YA. I liked it a lot ~ mini review to come :)

Currently reading: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I'm about 150 pages in and alternating between really liking it and wishing it would suck me in a bit more. I am just not used to the slower pace and am really curious about things but the narrator certainly languishes about a bit, haha.

Recently watched on DVD: What We Did On Our Holiday. This was really fun in a gorgeous Scottish setting with pitch perfect humour. Look, it was just delightful and gorgeous and a bit offbeat and oddly affecting. Totally recommend!

What should I read next?
I have some books on my shelves, kindle and at my library and I'm wondering what I should prioritise reading before the year is out (in the hope of finding some bonus 2015 faves).
Do you recommend any below? 
Or what has been you most recent fave read?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of Aaron Sorkin.

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

I knew I was going to like this from the first chapter. Kate is so effortlessly likeable and the premise is captivating and fun. The grieving for her mum was so well depicted -- I loved that it had realness and depth but it did not make the entire book get swallowed up by a grief-ridden, depressive tone. In fact, the book was loads of fun while also having so many shades of emotion (from all the different plot-lines). 

I was liking this a lot. And then: Enter that rebellious boy that the blurb mentions. Suddenly, I can't put the book down. Because HOT and SWOON and FUN with MYSTERIOUS MOTIVES. 

You guys, it had been a while since I had been so swallowed up by a book that I got that-up-all-night-loving-it buzz and this book was my saviour.

The Wrong Side of Right is smart and funny and clever and full of emotional depth. The plot never lulled, the characters were complex, and the swoon was real. I loved it, so. Also, there was an awesome message embedded (without ever being didactic) about being yourself. 

I completely think you should bump this to the top of your TBR charts and then, once you've read it, you'll be hanging out for what's coming next from this debut writer. One of my favourite reads so far this year :)

The Wrong Side of Right @ goodreads

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Five years of inkcrush + giveaway

Whoo hoo! 

It's been 5 years since I started inkcrush. So much has changed in that time (online and in real life). So many great blogger and reader buddies have come (some have gone again) and I'm still making new friends (hi, everyone!).

I really want to thank everyone who has been a part of inkcrush (so thank you!). You really don't know what it means to me to know that people drop by and comment, or have a read and ghost away again. I am continually surprised to see someone has linked to me, or someone knows about me (and this little squidgy corner of mine on the internet) or has found a new fave read from following me. There have been quiet patches on this blog and I've contemplated farewelling this space but it is a testament to my buddies and the lovely authors out there that I am still here (and I am very glad that I have not abandoned my little blog).

In a challenge for myself, I've picked six books from each year of blogging that I have major love for to reminisce about the last five years of my reading life. Not necessarily my *absolute* fave books from that year but ones to highlight and recommend as books I have incredibly fond memories of reading (and I've tried to be a little diverse in terms of genres).

BTW, it was ridiculously hard just picking six, I am totally congratulating myself for sticking to that feat! :)

Top picks from 2010

Top Picks from 2011

Top Picks from 2012

Top Picks from 2013

Top Picks from 2014

Top picks so far for 2015

New series I've found and loved

Giveaway :) 
Giving just a tiny bit back to celebrate
GL & may the force be with you...

One winner ~ 
your choice of any book/preorder up to $25 AU* from The Book Depository or Fishpond** 
OR a $20 Amazon gift card

Give-away ends on May 25
Winner notified by email

* roughly $20 US /13 pounds UK
** Or, if an Aussie wins, can also choose from Booktopia, Bookworld, The Nile, or Ebay, haha :)