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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My most anticipated books for the second half of 2014

I love marking the mid-year point by reflecting on my fave reads so far (I'll be posting them soon) and also by getting myself all pumped up for the brilliant books that are yet to come. I love having something to look forward too -- book anticipation is it's own kind of special buzz. I am sadly a little out of the loop this year with best-ofs and must-reads and buzz books. I don't even entirely know what is coming up -- but I have 12 books here that I'm truly looking forward to with increasing anticipation.

(all links go to goodreads)

Number one most (insanely) excited about

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

So thrilled (more than you can imagine) that Liane Moriarty has another book coming out this year. She is amazing. I love her.

Five imported contemporary YA titles I'm hanging out for

It's been a slow year with me and contemporary YA. I have not fallen in love with one yet -- or even seem to have been able to find enticing titles to get my hands on. However, I have a really good feeling about these five:

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The sequel to I'll be There. It's nearly here. I am stoked.

The Bridge From me To You by Lisa Schroeder

I love Lisa Schroeder. I have loved all her books thus far, we are just perfectly suited - her books and I. The premise of this sounds emotional and swoony and all round exactly like a Lisa Schroeder book.

On The Fence by Kasie West

Love Kasie West. She's swoony and fun and writes those up-all-night kinda books where you don't want to put it down because you're hoping and grinning too much. Love the cheery yellow title, too. This looks so happy-making.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I am *hoping* that I'll love this. I think it is going to be amazing...

Isla and The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Anna was so fun. I didn't connect the same way with Lola but that doesn't stop me from being excited for this. Also: I read the first 65 pages online -- it was good ;) Really good.

Six Aussie YA titles that have me thinking 2014 is shaping up to be an amazing year in books

The Protected by Claire Zorn

Loved Claire Zorn's debut, so much, and am really looking forward to what she has next. (Honestly -- I am thrilled there is a next so soon! Awesome surprise)

Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James

Loved Rebecca James' most recent release, Sweet Damage, it was an up-all-night, evocatively written psychological thriller. I'm really looking forward to another twisty and suspenseful reading experience <3

Intruder by Christine Bongers

Early reviews have me excited. The premise sounds awesome -- this looks like just my thing.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

From the super talented author of Life in outer Space -- Keil releases her second YA novel. I'm hanging out for more smiles and fun and something heartfelt and a little bit different. Also, the cover is amazing.

Head of the River by Pip Harry

I really loved Pip's debut (I'll Tell You Mine). It was absorbing, fresh and authentic -- with a plot that made it increasingly harder to put down. Looking forward to meeting more of her characters -- and this premise sounds unique and genuine.

Spark by Rachel Craw

Craw is an NZ author and this looks a tiny out of my comfort zone (with the sci-fi elements and such) but it has me intrigued and I love shaking things up a little in my reading -- definitely going to be hunting this one down

Two bonus titles:

Goodreads has these slated as 2014 releases -- but I'm not so sure? Looks like they may be 2015 titles as there's suspiciously little evidence so far... Whenever they come, I am so there:

The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley CATH. CROWLEY.

Unplugged by Donna Freitas Loved The Survival Kit (and also This Gorgeous Game). This is a genre switch, but I'm game -- Freitas has only ever impressed me so far <3

Are you excited for any of these? 
What are you looking forward to that i don't have on my radar yet?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Shimmer by Paula Weston

Gaby thought her life couldn't get more complicated.
She's almost used to the idea that she's not the teenage backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim—a 139-year-old half-angel—whose memories have been stolen. She's even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she's mourned for a year, didn't die at all.
But now Rafa—sexy, infuriating Rafa—is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.
It's a race against time—and history. And it may already be too late. 
I have been dying to get my hands on the 3rd book of the Rephaim series ever since Haze officially turned the Rephaim series into my favourite angel series ever. My expectation for Shimmer was crazy high, I missed those characters and so needed to hang out again. I was coming off the back off a major book slump when Shimmer finally arrived -- making my hopes even higher for the perfect reading escape (also placing pressure on Shimmer to deliver). You guys, it 100% does not disappoint. 
Shimmer starts minutes after where Haze left off -- and  things are straight-up intense and complicated when the outcasts and the Sanctuary Rephaim are reunited. Decade old tensions are coupled with immediate danger, torn loyalties, serious shock and high emotions. Shimmer takes us back to the Garrison where Gaby was once held as prisoner, but this time she's more sure of herself.  I love how much Gaby has grown as a character over the series and she really comes into her own in this instalment. She's fierce despite her exhaustion, brave despite her fears and relentless in standing up to face so much opposition on all sides. She's loyal and cares deeply and you can feel her fragile edges under it all and I just want everything to work out okay for her. I also loved finding out more about past-Gaby (Gabe) from her Sanctuary friends -- and it's nice to see so much of it is better than she was hoping for. I am also loving revisiting old Sanctuary memories -- like Gaby and Rafa's adrenalin junky motorbike days <3

Shadows opened with Gaby discovering the mystery of her past, and Haze hinted that those secrets were tangled in something far, far greater than just Gaby's immediate world. Now Shimmer really starts to crack open the whole Rephaim history and it's not just Gaby's world that has been rocked but all the Rephaim's, outcast and Sanctuary alike. Revelations gain momentum and seeds of doubt snowball into serious life-changing doubts and realisations.  
Weston manages to take crazy, complicated tensions between the myriad of characters and keep them all in balance -- all while unveiling secrets and ramping up mysteries. I love how with insight revealed it takes me back to earlier days (books) and shines a little light from a different perspective regarding characters motivations and relationships. It's a complex and intriguing group of characters and even the ones I didn't really feel that sympathetic towards are somehow worming their way into my affections. I love Gaby and Rafa is (clearly) amongst my fave YA love interests ever and Jude is incredible (and he also has some intriguing sexual tension happening with another Rephaim ;)). But it's the whole cast of characters that have me bewitched. Micah and Daisy (definitely looking forward to more of these two in #4), Zach and Ez, Jason and Maggie, even Taya and Mya and the Pan Beach Butler boys and co -- all make me feel like I'd love to hang out with the gang (although I'd need to brush up on my fighting skills -- non-stop sparring and fighting with that bunch of proud and kick-arse angels).
The tension is palpable and the pacing is sharp making Shimmer the most fierce and kick-arse book in the series so far. Zarael and his crew are formidable and unrelenting, seemingly even more nightmarish and ever-present than before. While the pacing had my heart thumping and those pages flying I missed some of those quieter moments where you can just breathe a little. Weston knows how to unleash all hell and then somehow take it up a notch, twist it around and flip it inside out. This time I felt more grounded as Jude is alongside Gaby -- he has her back, straight up. The dynamic between them is tight and I loved all their scenes together, so much. 
Rafa is hot and enigmatic in Shadows, damn sexy in Haze and in Shimmer he takes it up another level. So, fair warning -- prepare yourselves :).These two, Gaby and Rafa <3. All that slow burn sexual tension of the first two books really pays off and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.        
Bonus features: Weston has this really fun (and entirely useful) who's who of her world -- little mini character bios -- making it easy for readers to become reacquainted with the characters (and to refer back to if need be). Shimmer also opens with this genius little prologue where Gaby brings the reader up to speed covering the events of Shadows and Haze. 
Bonus feature I would have loved: Sneak peek of the first chapter of Burn (haha, joking.. kinda, not really...;)). THE ENDING... it's not a cliffhanger, per se, but it is the perfect set-up for book 4 (the series conclusion) and if I was dying to have Shimmer, I am even more so for Burn. The last scene just gave me such a rush -- and I am desperate to pick up where it leaves off -- Burn is going to begin with a real game changer and I am so along for the ride. 
I haven't been this pumped for a series since those early Hunger Games days when I needed to get my hands on Mockingjay (and now The Rephaim series supersedes that). I love this series immensely -- for the characters, the up-all-night addictive experience, the slow burn sexual tension, the secrets and mysteries and twists, the kick-arse, real-stakes action and for that unique Aussie vibe.
I am completely enamoured with this series and these characters and absolutely recommend Shimmer - one of my fave reads of the year so far (and Shadow and Haze, for those who have not yet started -- bump them up your TBR!).  
Shimmer is available now in Australia
(will be available in the UK July 3 -- and the US and Canada next year) 
Shimmer @ Text Publishing (with links to ebook purchases and preview of the first two chapters)
Paula Weston's blog

Thanks to Text Publishing for my review copy

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Me Since You by Laura Weiss

Laura Wiess captures the visceral emotion of a girl’s journey from innocence to devastating loss and, ultimately, to a strange and unexpected kind of understanding—in this beautiful and painfully honest new novel.

Are there any answers when someone you love makes a tragic choice?

Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother — and herself — from the endless replay of heartache and grief.

Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

I have really enjoyed Laura Wiess's previous work. I just click with her writing: languid prose that builds atmosphere and characters that are real and nuanced and compelling. Plus, she always has a sweet dose of swoon <3

The opening on Me Since You grabs your attention and holds it tight. Rowan's police father responds to an emergency call where lives hang in the balance. It's  adrenalin fueled and emotive and left me feeling stunned and bereft. From there the story builds, exploring the fall-out from a major event gone wrong. And the fall-out just keeps growing and twisting around. It was interesting premise with so many angles to explore. Mostly the reader she's this through Rowan's eyes, as she goes about her school, work and home life. 

The story takes a particular harrowing twist and Rowan is thrown deeper into a negative mental health minefield. There's grief and despair and regret and guilt and anger and disbelief and it's so perfectly captured. 

I greatly admire just how far down the rabbit hole Wiess explores. It's intense and all consuming. I think, as a reader, I was not prepared for that amount of harrowing grief. It translated so strongly from the page that I found myself feeling shrouded in despair as I was reading. I know it is not a book I will revisit (as it was so vivid, the grief and depression) but I really do recommend it to people who love intense emotional journeys. 

And, yes, there was a good amount of swoon (which really added some light to the darkness). Eli is amazing and a perfect match for Rowan's state of mind :)

Me Since You @ goodreads

Available Feb 18 (NOW!)

Thanks MTV Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an egalley of this book 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Astonishingly original
Artistic and magical

Time slides around the world so strangely ...

It's not easy being Princess Ko.

Her family is missing, taken to the World through cracks in the Kingdom, which were then sealed tightly behind them.

Now Princess Ko is running the Kingdom, and war is looming.
To help her find her family, she gathers a special group of teens, including Elliot Baranski of the Farms. He's been writing secret letters to a Girl-in-the World named Madeleine Tully - and now the Kingdom needs her help.

Madeleine and Elliot must locate the missing royals, convince them of their true identities, and figure out how to unlock the dangerous cracks between the Kingdom and the World.

All before their enemies can stop them.

Completely exhilarating and brilliant and breath-taking and funny and clever and unexpected. Also: so much fun and delight and some very smiley swoony moments. Jaclyn Moriarty is amazing and The Cracks in the Kingdom is on my all time ultimate faves list.

A Corner of White was just the beginning. I loved it whole-heartedly (my fave book of 2012) and The Cracks in the Kingdom has taken my love for this series to a whole new level (is that even possible?)

The plot cracks along splendidly. Whereas A Corner of White needed more time world building, TCitK takes off from the first chapter. I couldn't put it down, and trust me, I tried. I wanted to savour it and stretch it out and linger for a while but I was compelled to keep flying through, greedy for more, desperate to see where Moriarty would take me. And Moriarty delivers. For the mid series book, it really amps everything up -- and while it sets up the third book perfectly with some new complications, it still delivers with so many satisfying climaxes and resolutions to plot threads from the 1st book and 2nd. (no spoilers here but be excited, guys! So much goodness unfolds!)

The way Moriarty wields all her threads together, she builds them and builds them into this stunning and startling climax, revelations and twists and unexpected flips. I did not see so much of it coming and the way everything unfolded was pretty much perfect. Moriarty is daring and genius. I felt exhilarated when I finished, breathless and giddy and silly and satisfied (except for wanting book three, the finale for this trilogy. stat.)

TCitK is not just a fun, compelling and original, magical book. It's so much more than that. It has Moriarty's off kilter and gorgeous, grin worthy prose, but beyond that I feel like it's all real. I care so much for this Kingdom and the World. The characters have completely won me over and I have a deep and real affection for them. 

I've always loved Elliot -- " 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). And Madeleine grew on me by the end of A Corner of White so that by the time I started The Cracks in the Kingdom she was firmly one of my fave literary heroines and I love spending time with her. I also love a new character in the series "a kid named Samuel from Olde Quaint who's a walking panic attack." (p.78). He is so endearing and earnest and I laughed out loud multiple times at his try-hard ways (laughing in a nice way ;))

Here are a few highlights from the book:

  • The letters are fantastic, charming and vibrant and a highlight (Moriarty is the queen of epistolary)
  • The trip to the Lake of Spells (best camping trip ever!)
  • The mystery of the 5 missing royals (so compelling and sad and suspenseful!)
  • The whole mystery with Elliot's dad (some really awesome revelations and conclusions!)
  • More science (so smart and interesting!) and more magic (of the quirky and funny and awesome kind) and more Colour attacks (love all the Colour scenes)
  • Secret security and characters with hidden agendas (love Sergio!)
  • The turquiose rain in Jagged Edge (another fave moment, so cool).
  •  Also, more travelling throughout the Kingdom of Cello (you se so much more of the strange and beautiful and unique world and it's inhabitants)
(I actually have a lot more highlights but they all crossover into spoilery territory...)

In conclusion: The Cracks in the Kingdom is one of the best books I have ever read, and The Colours of Madeleine is my favourite series of all time. The series is original and it shines so brightly with creativity and heart and humour and is everything I could ever ask for in the most ultimate reading experience. I so hope you give this series a go, and I hope it brings you just as much joy as it does to me.

The Cracks in the Kingdom @ Pan Macmillan
The Cracks in The Kingdom @ goodreads

Thanks so much to Pan Macmillan for my review copy!

The Cracks in the Kingdom will release in Australia next week, Feb 27

(For my international readers, it's out in March)


Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney's north-west and studied Law and English on three continents - at Sydney University in Australia, Yale in the US and Cambridge in England. She spent four years working as a media and entertainment lawyer and now writes full time so that she can sleep in each day. She lives in Sydney with her son Charlie and is learning the cello.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kristan Higgins: Three Reviews

I've talked about Kristan Higgins on the blog before (Reviews of My One and Only, Too Good To be True, Until there Was You). She's a kind of rainy day, feel good, swoony romance author. The first book in the Blue Heron series, The Best Man, is my fave book of hers so far -- I really surprised myself with how much I loved it last year.

She's a prolific writer, there's lots to choose from in her backlist. Here's reviews of her two most recent titles, and a 2010 title.

The Next Best Thing

Lucy Lang isn't looking for fireworks...

She's looking for a nice, decent man. Someone who'll mow the lawn, flip chicken on the barbecue, teach their future children to play soccer. But most important: someone who won't inspire the slightest stirring in her heart...or anywhere else. A young widow, Lucy can't risk that kind of loss again. But sharing her life with a cat named Fat Mikey and the Black Widows at the family bakery isn't enough either. So it's goodbye to Ethan, her hot but entirely inappropriate "friend with privileges," and hello to a man she can marry. 

Too bad Ethan Mirabelli isn't going anywhere. As far as he's concerned, what she needs might be right under her nose. But can he convince her that the next best thing can really be forever?

I was suddenly ridiculously excited to see a new Higgins book on netgalley. It wasn't until I was a little way in that I realised this is an older book (2010) repackaged with a more contemporary cover (I am definitely liking the new cover schemes a lot more than Higgins earlier work). 

I really liked how Higgins detoured from her usual set-up here. The Next Best Thing felt fresh and different and, perhaps, less of a romantic set-up and more of a contemporary novel with romance. Lucy is a young widow grieving her husband -- and Ethan is her brother-in-law. This set-up has all kinds of tension but Higgins takes her time laying the groundwork. She takes her sweet time -- everyone (readers and characters) can see the way Ethan feels, everyone except for Lucy (who casually, blindly uses Ethan for sexytimes). 

It's Ethan that got to me in this one. He's such a genuine guy who's been shafted so many times. And he stoically bears it all. Well, most the time :) He's also cute, swoony, cheeky and sweet (just an FYI) I loved watching their relationship, from present day, to the beginning, flashbacks and memories. I really wanted more from Lucy. She was grieving, sure, but she was so blind and clueless! Ethan was the highlight of this story and I found my attention wandering when he didn't have any page time. I felt he should forget about Lucy and find someone else who is completely into him. And it's never a good sign when the reader (me) is no longer rooting for the heroine (sorry!).

I did enjoy this for the most part, but am super hopeful for more of Higgin's future work -- she's was so impressing in The Best Man that I feel she's grown tremendously as a writer since this book :)

The Next Best Thing @ goodreads

The Next Best Thing is available now

The Perfect Match (Blue Heron #2)

Honor Holland has just been unceremoniously rejected by her lifelong crush. And now—a mere three weeks later—Mr. Perfect is engaged to her best friend. But resilient, reliable Honor is going to pick herself up, dust herself off and get back out there… or she would if dating in Manningsport, New York, population 715, wasn't easier said than done. 

Charming, handsome British professor Tom Barlow just wants to do right by his unofficial stepson, Charlie, but his visa is about to expire. Now Tom must either get a green card or leave the States—and leave Charlie behind. 

In a moment of impulsiveness, Honor agrees to help Tom with a marriage of convenience—and make her ex jealous in the process. But juggling a fiancĂ©, hiding out from her former best friend and managing her job at the family vineyard isn't easy. And as sparks start to fly between Honor and Tom, they might discover that their pretend relationship is far too perfect to be anything but true love….

The Perfect Match is the classic 'fake marriage' set-up. I love the tension and scenarios that can crop up from this set-up. Especially when there is one gorgeous British guy on the scene, Tom. 

Look, straight up, it's hard from me to review this one because I have some mixed feelings, some of which may come from how much I loved the first book in this series, The Best Man. Honor is introduced in The Best Man -- and not in the most favourable of ways. I wanted to get under her skin, though, and believed in Higgins ability to work her magic. 

Even being inside Honor's head, I still found her slightly stand-offish and hard to know (although I felt quite familiar with her aging eggs, haha *eye roll*). I found Tom even more of an enigma. He cared a lot for his son, and had an English accent (always appealing, IMO) but I never truly believed his love for Honor was real and true and deep (lust, sure, love, I don't know?)

On one hand, The Perfect Match ticks all the boxes of a satisfying and fun chick-lit romance. It was swoony and fun and the pages flew by. Sexual tension was rampant. It was cute, for sure. On the other hand, I really wanted to be emotionally invested in Tom and Honor. Perhaps unfairly of me as I was coming off a real emotional connection in Faith and Levi's story in the first Blue Heron book so I raised my expectations higher than what I normally expect of this genre. 

The end result is: I had fun reading this book, there were some great swoony moments and it delivered as a rainy afternoon smiley romance but I still felt a bit let down as I wanted more, somehow. 

The Perfect Match @ goodreads

The Perfect Match is available now

Waiting on You (Blue Heron #3)

Does being nobody's fool mean that you're nobody's love?

Colleen O'Rourke is in love with love... just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart... an experience Colleen doesn't want to have again, thanks. Since then, she's been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who's ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they've got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she's ever loved.

Waiting on You is the third book in the Heron series. I was excited (started the moment it downloaded on my kindle) but cautious on beginning. My fave ever Higgins book is the first book in this series (The Best Man) but I didn't connect all that strongly with the 2nd book in the series (maybe a case if suddenly too high expectations?). As for this one -- Higgins is back in fine form. It doesn't rival The Best Man for my fave spot (Faith and Levi are just too awesome) but it delivers so much of Higgins trademark swoon and readability. 

Colleen has a strong personality. She's tough and friendly and seemingly indestructable, but underneath that she's still harbouring hurt from her first real love -- ten years on and she's never moved on, not really, not in her heart. But she's not ready to let him back in, especially as she loves him too much to risk a fling. As for Lucas. He's gorgeous, all pirate and swoony, and he has this achey past, making him vulnerable under his tough, unreadable exterior. It's a killer combo in a male lead. The tension between these two is fantastic. Perfect amount of smiley, grin-worthy, sigh-worthy scenes. The chemistry is palpable, and that is what Higgins does best (thank you!).

I loved watching our leads get together -- that's what always draws me to Higgins work, she has the magic touch with creating tension and swoon between her leads. I also loved how we get both perspectives -- Higgins really works that device to advantage, keeping me clicking through my kindle 'just one more chapter...' I liked the time I spent with them (I can say that for most of Higgins couples), but I do not think they will be one of my more memorable Higgins couple.

I do sometimes find Higgins subplots tiresome. I get that the families in this small town feature in all the books and are being revisited, but occasionally they are just too kooky/ridiculous/repetitive (with their interactions) for my taste. Maybe this is just a humour preference? Regardless, I will still be coming back for more Higgins as she fills her little romancey niche quite nicely. 

Waiting on you @ goodreads

Waiting on You is available from March 25 2014

My fave of these three is Waiting on You. 
Have you read Kristan Higgins? Do you have a fave?
Haven't read her yet but like contemporary romance?
I recommend The Best Man as a fab starting point

Thanks to Harlequin HQN and Netgalley for these digital review copies :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

For the past five years Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq.
Now they are back in town where he grew up so Hayley can go to a proper school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy's PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazing YA writer. She tackles tough subjects head on, flinging hardships, trials and snares at her characters. She's relentless and wry and relevant and revered.

The cover of her latest books is mesmerising (love it!), the title alluring and the premise promises some LHA conflict and heartbreak. I love the way Anderson writes -- her sentences have a certain cadence, her humour often sneaky, her protagonists not afraid to be unlikeable. I also love how her books are all different shades, and although I find her voice distinctive, she's unique in all her work.

In TIKoM, Anderson peels back layer after layer on one family's experience with the demons of post traumatic stress disorder. Hayley's life is so clouded by her father's psychological scars. It's brutal and unpredictable and violent and so completely harrowing. About 2/3's in, I was so consumed by the reality of Hayley and her father's predicament that I was convinced there would be no happy ending, no resolution for an illness so all-consuming, so powerful. The stakes are raised, the scene is bleak -- Anderson's portrayal is intense. She does an incredible job of portraying the after effects of war and yet, somehow, I felt removed from it, as if I was looking in -- I had hoped to feel Hayley's pain and emotion as if it were my own. That emotional connection as a reader is so subjective -- I am a little disappointed that even while I was absorbed in the story it never really punched me in the gut.

TIKoM is not all darkness -- Anderson is the master of wry humour and candid quips and the book is peppered with personality. Another bonus is Finn. He's a genuine good (without being too good) and funny and swoony boy -- he'll bring many smiles to readers faces and he has surprises in store for Hayley Kincaid. He chips through her icy indifference, masterful and cute and creative. Their banter was cute, sure, and when Hayley finally let him in, it was beautiful. The friendship/romance in this is a lifeline to Hayley -- and to readers (who need a sparkle of hope to contrast with the very real and frightening reality of Hayley's home life). 

While reading this I reflected on how Anderson never talks down to her audience - and she's articulate, compelling and honest (as well as offering some fun in the midst of the horror). I know this book will connect with many readers (TIKom will appeal to teens and adults alike). Recommended
Read an extract
The Impossible Knife of memory @ Text Publishing
The Impossible Knife of Memory @ goodreads

Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of several books for young adults including the New York Times bestselling novel Speak. She is the recipient of the prestigious ALAN Award (2008), which honours those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature. Laurie Halse Anderson lives in northern New York State with her husband.

Thanks to Text Publishing for my review copy