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: https://www.textpublishing.com.au/text-prize 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?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On The Fence by Kasie West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Head of the River by Pip Harry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Head of The River @ goodreads
Pip Harry's site

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Titles I am so very much looking forward to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

x Nomes

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fave Reads of 2014 ~ Top Ten Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My absolute fave read <3

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

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

You all know how much I love this series <3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

x Nomes