Monday, August 18, 2014

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

My first Elizabeth Eulberg completely charmed and captivated me -- which has me wondering how I have managed to not discover her earlier?

Better Off Friends was completely winsome and breezy with perfectly pitched emotion and depth. It was hard not to fall for these two -- I settled in, snuggled up and just grinned and swooned and sighed my way through this. I think a standout for me is definitely the honesty and realism presented in the pages. It felt true-to-life and without guile. It was fresh without any gimmicky attempt to amp up emotions which allowed the characters and plot to breathe and stand on it's own.

I loved that this book spans about five years (presented in alternating POVs -- often refelcting on the same event, which was really captivating). It gave so much realness and depth to all the main characters (and their friends and families) and to the ups and downs of Macallan and Levi's relationship. Also, I just loved hanging out with these guys and watching them and their lives over 5 years (so cool, seeing all the changes and hanging out in anticipation for the goodness to come)

I loved the chapters set in Ireland (just an FYI).

This is perfect for a rainy day weekend, or a chilled-out beach read. It's been a few weeks since finishing this and it still resonates with me (in a happy-making, smiley way). It is so much what I love about the contemporary YA genre (best friends, crushes, childhood memories, classic coming of age themes, families, self-doubt and identity) all in one addictive, sweet, swoony, achey and fun read. The effortless style drew me in and the characters kept me there. I am whole-heartedly recommending this to all fans of contemporary YA -- especially those of you out there who are in need of a refreshing, charming and effortlessly captivating read (complete with depth and so much contemporary YA goodness).

Have you read Elizabeth Eulberg? 
Any faves from her backlist that I should prioritise getting to?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?

I coveted The Art of Lainey for a while. I was after a contemporary YA with plenty of swoon and fun and easy/predictable drama that did not require much of me but to go along for the ride. Also -- it did not escape my notice that this title was getting consistently favourable reviews from trusted sources. 

Here's what you should know:

Swoon -- definitely, yes and yes

Drama -- high school style (although set over the summer break) with one of those toxic best friends that really bug me (why can't the protag see through all that and move on?) (but also features another best friend who is one of the best kinds...)

Predictability -- the blurb gives it away a little, you know where it's headed, but you don't know the details along the ride. It's a fun predictability where you will be rooting, swooning and holding your breath for the slow burn pay-off. Also -- some of the popular-style crew were pretty shallow and one dimensional. Are people really like that? 

The MC -- Lainey is a little hard to take at the beginning (persevere!). Definitely her character arc: snobby, insecure and self-indulgently shallow -- she wrestles with teenage immaturity and identity-- reminiscent of teens I know, haha -- but she comes out all right, guys ;)

Fun -- so many dates and cool scenarios, a cool cafe setting, and breaking free of a whole peer group and discovering something so much cooler instead.

Micah -- I already mentioned the swoon. I am mentioning it again because it was my main covetous motivation and this contemp YA brought the goods, and I was one smiley, happy reader. 

The gang -- I love when assorted misfits end up gathering and getting all BFF through time with these awesome in-jokes and grin-worthy banter and fun. So, there's that :)

The verdict -- This was a good fun read with a hot YA guy to crush on. It was exactly what I ordered. And I am most definitely looking out for more Paula Stokes :)

The Art of Lainey @ goodreads

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#scandal by Sarah Ockler

Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.

When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.

By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation. 

Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate.

There’s just one snag—Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love...

For a girl whose first reading love is contemporary YA, Sarah Ockler is one of my fave authors for consistently delivering my kind of swoony and compelling reads. 

Straight out I'll admit, if this blurb had not been accompanied by Ockler's name I would have passed #scandal by. I have limited interest in online scandals, social networking dramas, cyber bulling, etc even while knowing it's an important issue that should be represented in fiction for this generation. But I do have major interest in Sarah Ockler and unrequited love. So cue major excitement because if anyone can get me converted to a tabloid-y internet troll-type story, Ockler would be the one.

#scandal opened straight with action at a swirling prom night and after party where characters dance in and out of the scene laying clues and foundations for the inciting event: the forbidden kiss. It's a doozy of an opener, atmospheric and energetic -- Ockler embraces Lacy's voice (wry, authentic and slightly snarky in a nerdy way. Also, endearingly vulnerable and hopeful). It felt like Ockler had a blast writing this -- with witty asides and tabloid newsletters interspersed throughout. It's voice-y and clever and somehow spirited (despite our protagonists quiet misgivings -- there's a spark in the air).

The plot follows a truly-awful trajectory of gut-wrenching shaming and a mass trolling fall-out where a small scandal snowballs into your worst nightmare. This is interspersed with Veronica Mars style sleuthing with a  budding gang of new-to-Lucy crew trying to work out who is behind the attacks. There's a painful best friend fall-out -- and, sadly, despite the truly awesome prom night kiss -- not much time to explore her relationship with Cole. 

The pacing is great -- constantly upping the ante with the bullying -- nothing is easy for Lucy. Things go from bad to worse. I felt so, so bad for her. The mystery is sound and the forming of a new rag-tag type group was definitely a highlight for me. However, it was not a me book.  I don't like watching teens behaving badly online and witnessing the stomach-churning, relentless despair and overwhelming horror the victims endure. It really is distressing. Also, I missed the Ockler swoon. Cole was cute, sure, and had potential to be serious book-crush contender but he was largely absent for major portions of the book. I also missed seeing their relationship develop from crush, to slow burn to anticipation and realisation due to the book opening with the love already established on both sides.

I think if this premise is your kind of thing you should check it out, for sure. I like seeing authors try out new genres and twists on their usual MO but this one just didn't resonate with me like Ockler's previous books. Still -- #scandal grabbed me and I charged through it, butterflies in my tummy and all, within 48 hours. 

#scandal @ goodreads

Other inkcrush Ockler reviews:
The Book of Broken Hearts
Fixing Delilah

Thanks to Simon Pulse and Edelwiess for the egalley

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trouble by Non Pratt

In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.

When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”

Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.

While Trouble is written in an effortlessly engaging style I wasn't sure whether this UK YA would be my thing despite it having 5 star ratings from trusted friends. Look, it opens with a dose of partying, alcohol, random sexytimes, attitude and angst, and some school mean girl undertones. I have definitely outgrown these themes (they have never been my-kind-of-thing in YA) but Hannah's voice was so refreshing that despite everything I continued on. And I'm glad I did. 

I was hooked on voice from the start -- but, IMO, the first 50-80 pages are the weakest. Things really gained momentum after a tenuous start and it soon became clear that this book is completely non-cliche, full of genuine heart, 3D characters and a plot that sails along unexpectedly (whatever you assume this teen pregnancy book is about, it isn't).

I love how Trouble is told in alternating POV -- like the plot, it is unconventional -- happily switching between Hannah and Aaron mid-scene, flipping back and forth in short bursts or sometimes holding one POV for extended lengths of time.

Also it would be criminal for me not to mention the swoon (in an unexpected and unpredictable way).

So many threads come together spectacularly in the last quarter of the book -- at this point the book really hits it's stride and the emotion and gut-punches are real and beautiful and balanced with ache and belonging and horror and hope.  And the ending was just fantastic (although I could happily have gone on reading what happens next...)

I liked this a lot -- it was engaging and a read I found myself heading back to, consuming it in a couple of days. I am impressed with this debut and have a feeling Non Pratt could easily become a fave YA author of mine. A shaky start for me that built in awesomeness to a spectacular ending. So watching out for what Pratt has next.

Thanks to Trinja, Mands and Emily (both awarding Trouble 5 shining stars and fave reads of the year) for bringing this book to my attention :)

*If we're talking stars: I'd say 3 stars for the first half and 4.5 stars for the second half.

Trouble @ goodreads

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten authors whose books I own the most of

My first Top Ten Tuesday (which is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) :)

I always love seeing these posts roll by in my feed and am jumping in today with some pics from my shelves. This was fun to count up how many books I own by certain authors ~ major advantage to long time publishing faves :) All counted up from my shelves ~ not including any ebooks or audiobooks that I own.

First up you should know:

  • I don't buy many books -- I am a very happy library addict. 
  • I love scrounging around op shops and second hand books stores to find any fave books I need to possess ;)
  • I am pretty ruthless with my collection -- I only keep my faves on my shelves and donate/giveaway any other books that accumulate (most recently had a huge clean out when moving house in May ~ I removed over 120 books from my collection then)
  • I currently have about 40 books out on loan ~ so I couldn't include them when I went scrounging around my shelves (so my count could be out, haha)

1. John Marsden ~ 14 books

Mostly comprised by the brilliant Tomorrow, When the War Began series. I love Ellie and the gang so much. I finally completed my collection more than ten years after reading them when Coles put them on clearance for $2 (love a bargain!). 

2. Elizabeth Scott ~ 11 books

Elizabeth Scott is one of my all time fave comfort reads. I adore her and am so pleased to own almost her entire catalogue (I'm missing Living Dead Girl ~ which was startling and impressive yet I know I will never reread). My faves of hers are: Stealing Heaven, Miracle and Perfect You

3. Jaclyn Moriarty ~ 10 books

My favourite author! I own all her books to date. These books have all been read at least twice and will be read so many more times. My fave of hers is usually which ever one I happen to be reading ~ too hard to pick. Seriously. (Although I recommend Finding Cassie Carzy if you've yet to try her out)

4. Melina Marchetta ~ 8 books

I love Melina Marchetta. Her books have pride of place on my shelves. I find it hard to pick a fave as it's like  trying to pick your favourite child ~ but I am very happy to have two copies of the gorgeous on The Jellicoe Road ~ stunning, most brilliant book. 

5. Sonya Hartnett ~ 7 books

Sonya Hartnett is a long time fave of mine since I first read Sleeping Dogs when I was 14. Some of these copies have been hard won ~ out of print and gleefully snatched up like hidden treasure from hours spent scrounging around second hand books shops. There are still a few more of hers I would love to own! I read Wilful Blue about 5 times during year 11 and 12. I felt it was some kind of personal manifesto, haha (although it is objectively one of her weaker titles). She is amazing. 

6. Liane Moriarty ~ 6 books

I have all 6 of Liane's gorgeous books (Also I love how she is right next to her sister Nicola Moriarty on my shelves). I personally prefer the cute little trade paperbacks for sizing but am happy to have her latest three in first edition release :) My faves of hers are Three Wishes and the Husband's Secret ! but all of them are brilliant. 

After this I have a massive tie for authors whom I own FOUR books of:

Sherryl Jordan ~ New Zealand author whom I most nostalgically love and adore. My fave of hers is Winter of Fire.
Lisa Schroeder ~ love her verse novels <3
Sara Zarr 
C K Kelly Martin ~ I also have a bonus book on my kindle. Can't wait for her upcoming release!
Cath Crowley ~ Still collecting ~ I have one more Gracie Faltrain book to find and bring home (and hanging out for The Howling Boy)
Kasie West ~ I am fast feeling the same way about Kasie West that I feel about Elizabeth Scott. My fave of hers is The Distance Between Us.
Laurie Halse Anderson
Sarah Ockler ~ I know this number will grow the more Ockler writes.
Sarah Dessen ~ I was sure I had more but must've lost some along the way...

Which author do you own the most books of? 
Do you collect books or pass them on?

(This post would be entirely different if it was authors whom I have read the most books of... So many authors I used to burn through at the library)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Highlights of my reading year so far (2014)

I drafted this post in early July -- and here we are :) Still, I love talking about books that I have so very much enjoyed and here's some highlights of my 2014 reading year.

2014 has been a mixed-up year so far -- with 3 months of it spent nearly entirely in bed (slain with two mosquito-borne viruses -- Barmah Forest Virus and Ross River Fever -- coupled with other medical complications) which made for some reading time (but nothing too challenging as sick, etc, etc). I also (somehow) kept up study and we moved house as well. I'm feeling so much better these days and am so excited for the rest of 2014 -- life-wise and reading-wise. I am ever-so-thankful for books when times are tough -- and also thankful for book recommendations from good friends and bloggers <3

As always, my favourite reading experiences are not necessarily the most brilliant or perfect books out there -- they comprise of the books that came to me at the right time, perfectly matching my reading mood and sucking me in with that up-all-night addictive reading feeling. They feature combinations of characters I came to love, escapism, and gorgeous prose.

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

My absolute fave so far this year. I love this series so much I feel like my heart could burst! So much looking forward to #3 and also looking forward to rereading this one <3 This was funny and unique and suspenseful and perfectly brilliant in every way.

My review

Shimmer by Paula Weston

I reread the first two books in the series (just as addictive on the reread) and fell deeper in love with the characters and the world. Good times! I am so encouraging everyone to get on board with this unique and addictive Aussie YA angel series.

My Review

As Stars Fall by Christie Nieman

There was something almost otherworldly about this gorgeous Aussie YA contemporary novel. It was startling and beautiful and full of emotoins and surprise.

My review

Dark Horse by Honey Brown

I really look forward to Honey Brown -- she always hits the spot when you're in the mood for a psychological thriller. This is my fave of her titles so far. Addictive with some stunning twists and intense, evocative scenes. I loved this.

I also read Through the Cracks by Honey Brown this year and recommend that as well (unputdownable) -- although I am just sticking to picking one of her titles for this fave list :)

The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

A post-apocalyptic zombie novel that really is worth the hype. This captivated me from the first scene -- and held me the whole way through to it's stunning conclusion.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I was so surprised by how much I fell for this book. I found it captivating and was so easily absorbed into the pages -- and wanting to get back to it every time I had to put if down. It was a combination of things that kept the pages turning -- Kestrel's captivating narration, the easy world-building, the genuine conflicts and the slow burn and complicated relationship between Kestrel and Arin. This is a fantasy but has more of a historical-ish vibe (even a kind of ancient Greece type feel). I so loved reading it and am 100% hanging out for #2.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Whimsical and heartfelt and a little bit off beat -- this was delightful and clever and I'm still thinking about it.

The Darkest Minds and Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

I picked this up after seeing Reynje (of Wordchasing) recommend it. I feel I have mostly outgrown this YA genre of special powers/post-apocalyptic society type books and therefore never paid this series much attention. So glad I rectified that. Both these books delivered for me: fresh and intriguing with fantastic pacing and some cool twists. I loved Ruby's narration and the little band of characters -- also a shout-out to the good guy love interest = swoon! Looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight and
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

To all those people who were there at the beginning -- I do not envy your wait between books. I ignored this series for a long time (I pretty much don't do urban fantasy or paranormal and thus assumed these books would not be my thing). The upside of me waiting so long to take up these books is I got to read them pretty much back to back. The writing is lush, the plot and world building is intricate and the story-telling is just sublime. There's so much emotion in this series -- depth's of sorrow and love and also ridiculous fun and humour. Unpredictable and gorgeous and consuming -- now a fave series that I am already looking forward to rereading. Karou and Akiva <3

 Nearly a Lady by Alissa Johnson

I like a bit of regency romance when I need something fun to escape into. Out of all the regency romances I have read so far (this year and in previous years) -- this would have to be my fave. So much fun and swoony good times. Also -- does not follow the kind of set romance formula that so much of this genre adheres too. I 100% recommend this total gem to any fans of regency romance (and also to anyone who might like to drop by the genre and give it ago :) )

Major thanks to Keertana of Ivy Book Bindings for highlighting this title in her fave reads of the year (so far)  (you were not wrong!)

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

I really enjoyed this contemporary YA debut. It was the first contempary YA book to hold my attention in such a long time. (And those who have been around here a while know that contempary YA is my first love). I didn't entirely connect with the MC but that did not stop me from loving the writing. Highlights of this were the slow burn romance (my fave way to bring the swoons!) and the best friend relationship. This is a road trip book but it did not feel like a road trip book at all (which suits me as I am generally not into road trips -- in life or in fiction, haha). Not an all time fave book but definitely worth a shout out for it's up-all-night addictiveness.

As always -- I would love any recommendations or to know if you loved any of these as much as I did! And thanks to my readers (if you're still out there!) for stopping by (either on the site or in your feeders) and I hope you're in the middle of a truly awesome book

Much love,


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As Stars Fall by Christie Nieman

A bush fire, and its aftermath, links a Bush-Stone curlew and three teenagers experiencing loss, love and change.

The fire was fast and hot ... only days after it went through, there were absolutely no birds left. I should have seen it as an omen, the birds all leaving like that.

Robin is a self-confessed bird-nerd from the country, living in the city. On the first day at her new school, she meets Delia. Delia is freaky and definitely not good for Robin's image.

Seth, Delia's brother, has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, especially the fire that killed his mother.

When a rare and endangered bird turns up in the city parklands, the lives of Robin, Seth and Delia become fatefully and dangerously intertwined ...

An intricate love story about nature, grief, friendship and life.

Beautiful, poignant, with wonderfully original characters and a unique blend of time and place.

Beautifully written and compelling in both a quiet and urgent way. As Stars Fall was unexpected (both in it's captivating nature and in it's plot) and lyrical and haunting in that perfect way where the characters bleed into you and you feel their grief and wildness and confusion and hope.

As Stars Fall is an astonishing book in so many ways. It moves along to it's own beat blending two vivid settings (the city and the country) and three POVs that criss-cross and gain momentum so that I was holding my breath wondering how things were going to turn out. The narrative structure reminds me a little of The Accident -- though As Stars Fall has an extra element that just verges on magical realism (kind of -- mostly in the way that you can begin to maybe expect the unexpected -- and in the feeling that something horribly magical, or magically horrible could be just about to unfold). I loved it for that. The element of danger and impending doom just quietly bubbling away in the background. It was grounded and yet had exquisite moments of grief and paranoid delusion and heightened emotions mixed in with the everyday stifling, even boring, aftermath of tragedy and upheaval. 

I loved reading this exquisite Aussie YA novel -- which didn't follow a set formula but was crafted with care and took me to places I did not expect and then had me suddenly realising how much I had come to care for the characters. This is a slower read -- but every scene drew me deeper in and I consumed in a 24 hour period. It's reeling with emotion -- but balanced with some sharp humour and a gorgeous and unpredictable love story. I loved the school setting -- Robin is so brave and wonderful to watch at setting into a new school (she's daring and bold and clever and just such a great heroine to cheer for) and the farm setting and I loved the aliveness of the fierce and unrelenting, devastating fire. I am not really a bird fan at all but I loved the mysteriousness of the bush-stone curlew and how it tied everything together. The ending was stunning and really brought the book into a whole other level.  

As Stars Fall is a favourite read for me this year and I recommend it to fans of Aussie YA -- to readers who like to sink into their books and quietly and unexpectedly fall in love.

As Stars Fall @ goodreads
As Stars Fall @ Pan Macmillan
Read an extract

As Stars Fall is available in Australia now
Thank you Pan Macmillan for my review copy