Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fury by Shirley Marr

Let me tell you my story.
Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.
Strap yourself in...

Eliza Boans has everything.
A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.
So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder? 

Mate, this book, it's clever and sophisticated and smart and I am so thrilled Shirley Marr has come flying onto the YA scene.

The first thing you should know: This is one of those books where you are hooked from the first page. So, you know, be prepared for a page-flipping marathon because you won't want to put this book down.

I won't say much because I loved going in to this book blind, but... it opens after the murder and slips back in time to the build-up to the murder. You don't know who Eliza (our teen protagonist) killed or how or why - and it all unfolds so wonderfully. The stakes are raised, there's twists and red herrings and it's all delicately balanced: the fun with the serious, the fear with the bravery, the present with the past.

 This book has the best of both worlds: a killer storyline and snazzy gorgeously witty prose. The story about the murder is teased out beautifully - with Gossip Girl-esque drama alongside some much more serious stuff that goes down. I love how well Shirley Marr blends her own unique style into one whirlwind of a book:

  • It's a fun book, but a thinking book as well. 
  • There's slashes of violence and squeals of teen girl excitement. 
  • There's depth and fear and frivolity. 
  • There's friendships that are complicated in that way that teenage girls complicate things - fiercely protective of each other, secretly jealous of each other, hugging one minute and eyeing each other of the next.
  •  It felt true and absolutely teenager-y.

The voice is completely delicious to read. Snarky and funny and truly startling - simply delicious and a little unexpected.

Let me tell you about Eliza.... I ADORE her. Which is saying something as she is not always the easiest protagonist to love.Shirley Marr has a similar gift to Courtney Summers (Cracked Up To be, Some Girls Are) and Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall) in taking an unlikeable main character and captivating you with their unlikeableness (I'll use that invented word) and then making you somehow come to care for them by the end of the sordid affair.

She's a perfect blend of angst, wit, drama and you can spot little snatches of ache under the tough exterior. The teen voice in this is nailed. It's blast to read. I had a little wry smile on my face, there's plenty of amusing snickering moments and a few laugh-out-loud appreciations for Eliza's observations on people and life.

Random things to love:
(unrelated to the review - but I just can't help myself)

  • there's rats. And a pet rat named Ratattack. I love pet rats and how COOL is that name? I have a thing for stumbling across cool pet names in books.
  • There's a mention of Richie from The Manic Street Preachers. I was so MAD-Crazy about The Manics (back in the day...) and I thought I was the only fan Down Under :) Anyways, you all probably don't care - but it was just an awesome feeling stumbling across them in a book. So - yay! haha.
  • Ultra rich people living in an ultra rich estate. It's fascinating and almost other-worldy, the lives these people lead. (well, coming from me, a westie-girl :)
  • There's an ending that you will still be thinking about days after you're done.

Recommended: It's a wild, immensely enjoyable read. Sparkling, oozing with wit - a fresh thinking teens noir. Who knew reading about a murderer could be so much fun? I loved it - it's a brilliant addition to the Aussie YA scene and YA in general - a rocking thriller that's a blast to read. I really cannot wait to see what Shirley Marr comes up with next :)

Fury @ goodreads
Shirley Marr's funky website
Shirley Marr @ myspace
Shirley Marr @ facebook
Read an extract

Thank you ever-so-much to Black Dog Books and Shirley Marr for this review copy
Fury is available in Australia now :)

Oh - and who else is crushing on the cover? lovelovelove!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Freefall by Mindi Scott

How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend, Isaac, alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time when Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn't wake up.
Convinced that his own actions led to his friend's death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he's ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth soon realizes he isn't the only one who needs saving . . .

Those looking for an edgy male POV will enjoy Seth's voice - it's nailed really well, he's likeable despite his flaws, believable with a great blend of angst and humour. There are some scenes that I really liked, and some genuinely funny/sweet/sexy moments. Also, some of the prose was gorgeous - scenes in the rain were well done and atmospheric.

But mostly, I just feel like this didn't go anywhere. I kept hoping it would build towards some great moment but then the storyline started petering out and it all felt like a bit of an anti-climax really. 

I found the beginning lacklustre (I'm not a huge fan of the drunken party scene in books), the middle picked right up (it had some great moments) but then I feel like the climax and ending never arrived. One major plot point regarding Rosetta was not resolved - which mystified me as a lot of the book felt like it was working towards that point.

Still, it's a well written book and I think teens could really dig this. It doesn't get cheesy or melodramatic - which earned it an extra star from me. It's also a quick and honest read - although it dips into clich├ęd territory, it is heartfelt and genuine. 

A lot of mates have LOVED and ADORED this (and YA reviewers that I look up to) - so maybe it was just me wanting it to be more - to go deeper or to somehow be more unique (the whole dead friend, dead parents, romance from the wrong side of the tracks is nothing new - and although it was well handled - it failed to stand out for me). 

I wish I had read a review that deflated some hype before going in to reading it - perhaps I wouldn't have felt as disappointed if I had lowered my expectations. 

Recommended: If you're looking for a slightly sexy read with a romance from the wrong side of the tracks - you'll enjoy this.  It will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles (although it is much more down to earth and not as cheesy as Elkeles can get with her romance - you guys know what I mean here... :). It's edgy - drugs, drinking and sex. Upper YA kinda stuff :)

Over @ goodreads I gave Freefall 3 stars (I liked it - but didn't fall in love)

I'd love to know your thoughts on this book if you've read it :)
I'd welcome any gushing love - I like how we all respond to books differently 

xo Nomes

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang

As Mirabel watched him, she could not bear the thoughts creeping up on her.  JJ was in the Chinese army and his mission in Australia would one day be over.  Then she would be just like the others, a girl left behind in the wake of war.  'I'm afraid,' she whispered. 'When the war ends . . . what's going to happen to us?'
He put his arm around her and stroked her face.  She knew he could not answer that question.  But she wanted him to lie, to say that he would take her with him, that they would be together always.
Melbourne, 1943, and Mirabel is seventeen.  She's leaving school, designing dresses, falling in love.  Then fate intervenes, her forbidden affair is discovered, and JJ is posted back to China where a civil war is raging.  Despite all warnings, Mirabel sets off for Shanghai to find him . . .
Little Paradise is inspired by a true story.

Little Paradise has been described as "an epic love story set during World War Two in Melbourne and Shanghai"

I am more than a little in awe of  how well incorporated the little details of setting and culture and  have been weaved into the story. It's intricate and lyrical and one of those stories where you truly feel transported to the time and place while reading. It's a perfect example of research not bogging down a story - just used deftly to make it shine. Once the scene is set, the story flows along wonderfully. (The beginning, while beautifully written, took a little for me to warm up into).

The story is fascinating and always a little unexpected. There's family dramas and secrets (I personally loved the Mirabelle's Mothers story - fascinating and mind-boggling), there's friends and a war-time romance, which is kept a secret from Mirabelle's family. There's intrigue, love and disappointments. There's scandal and mental illness and daring adventures.

It's epic not only in it's settings from Melbourne to Adelaide and then a war devastated Shanghai, but also in the period of life Mirabel is going through - she begins as a 17 year old dreamer, longing for love and tinkering with art to having an illegitimate child, risking her life through a war-torn nation in search of JJ, her soldier boyfriend. By the end of the novel Mirabel is in her early twenties.

I loved all the little snippets Wang snuck in the narrative concerning Chinses culture and history. They slipped so effortlessly into the prose adding a richness to the story.

I really enjoyed the first half in Melbourne - but the second half - wow - the story just really took off in China. I was captivated and amazed at events that unfolded. It's really stunning - even more so considering it is inspired by a true story.

Recommended: Anyone who loves historical fiction, fascinating cultural history or a war-torn love story will really appreciate and enjoy this. It's a beautifully told story, heart-felt and powerful - a story that will resonate after the last page. It's particularly rich in setting and just oozes heart.

Bonus: I wasn't sure about copyright so I haven't posted the images here - but you should check out these illustrations  Gabrielle's mum drew, which are also included inside the book (scroll down a little). Just stunning.

The girl on the front cover in that stunning blue dress? It's actually a photo of Gabrielle's mother!

Links you may be interested in:

Little Paradise @ goodreads
Little Paradise @ Penguin
Read an extract
About Gabrielle Wang
Gabrielle Wang's website

Many thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The winners of this years Inky Awards...

The winners of this years Inky Awards were announced today - wahoo!

The Gold Inky (Australian title) went to Lucy Christopher's Stolen

And the Silver Inky (International title)  went to Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver

A HUGE congrats to both :) 
and also to all 20 short-listed titles...

Previous posts regarding the Inky's:
The 2010 Inky Longlist (and previous winners 2007 - 2009)
The 2010 Inky Shortlist (and my picks)

Covers - Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking For Alaska won the Printz in 2006.

Hard Cover US
(Also the edition I read in Australia)

Iconic, clean and minimalist.
Also, kind of edgy for some reason?

Evokes a feeling of a nostalgic summer
Classic coming of age vibe

New Zealand & ?
not bad, but I'm not sure what it's aiming at?
slightly whimsical. Not so appealing for guy readers though.

This one, I love.
It feels perfect. Hopeful and quirky.

I have no idea where this design concept came from
But for some reason, I cannot look away...

This looks more like adult literary fiction than YA to me.

I like the ideas in this - the maze and leaf and shoe.
But it makes me think of my high school science text book for some reason.

Circa 1980's style.
This one isn't for me.

Similar vibe to the UK - perhaps more male friendly though.
I'm digging it.

Again, I like the concept idea: burning cigarette, lipstick kisses and a scroll.
But overall, it's a little too blah for me.

I don't mind this. I'd like it to be a touch grungier/scratchier around the edges.
Also, are they boys jeans or girls jeans? Can't make up my mind...

Another minimalist vibe. It's kind of cool :)

Ooooh! Moody! 
I like the eyes in the trees and the road disappearing into fog.
This one reminds me of a movie poster.


Which one is your favourite?
Any that amuse? Make you laugh? Any you wish you could own?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Rosie Black Chronicles by Lara Morgan

Five hundred years into the future, the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the “Centrals”; the have-nots, the “Bankers”; and the fringe dwellers, the “Ferals”. 

Rosie Black is a Banker. When Rosie finds an unusual box, she has no idea of the grave consequences of her discovery. A mysterious organisation wants it – and will kill to get it. 

Forced to rely on two strangers, Rosie is on the run. But who can she trust? Pip, the too attractive Feral, or the secretive man he calls boss? 

From Earth to Mars, Rosie must learn the secrets of the box – before it’s too late. 

I loved this.

There's a great vibe to this book - which doesn't sag in momentum - the plot kept moving forward making it an energetic and captivating read. The prose is just lovely, clean and fresh, I'm a fan.

I adore Rosie. Mostly, I love that she stuffs things up a fair bit. She does things she's not supposed to - she's not always thinking straight. I love teens (and people) who have the best of intentions but somehow still manage to screw up and fudge their way along. Ultimately, she's one tough girl that I care oh-so-immensely about. She's inventive, and a strong protag. You will love her :)

Pip. I'll add him to the top of my crush-worthy list of fictional characters. He is just done so well. I can't pigeon hole him at all. He's a Feral and not what you expect and he keeps not being what you expect until you kinda don't know what to expect anymore. He's funny, clever, hot, mischievous and infuriating.

I was initially caught up by the mystery of the box, and how Rosie opens it and triggers a domino chain of events of seemingly never-ending catastrophic events (kinda like this run-on sentence). Then, the plot deepens, and twists and gradually I found myself invested not just in the story that was unfolding, but the characters. by the end, i was deeply invested in all the main characters lives. They have such intriguing histories and painful pasts and there's secrets, mysteries, and most of all - a huge betrayal. Ouch.

There's torture and freaky stuff going down on Mars... and other sci-fi stuff that I can't coherently relate but made sense when I read it, haha. (It's 500 years in the future: half set in Australia, then space and finally on Mars).

Boys will love this too. Plus, it would make an ideal classroom read. One of those non-boring high school texts that will captivate and spark a whole range of discussion and debate.

It's the first in a series. I'm really hanging out to see what happens next, hey :)

Rosie Black @ goodreads
Review @ The Book Gryffin
The Rosie Black website
The Rosie Black book trailer
Rosie Black @ Walker books
Read an excerpt

The Rosie Black Chronicles is available now in Australia and New Zealand - yay! 

Thanks to Walker Books and The Book Gryffin for my lovely lovely copy :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Waiting For You by Susane Colasanti

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when the handsome and popular Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road including her parents' unexpected separation, a fight with her best friend, and a shocking disappointment in her relationship with Derek test Marisa's ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school's ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is or does she?

In this third romantic novel from Susane Colasanti, Marisa learns how to "be in the Now" and realizes that the love she's been waiting for has been right in front of her all along.

Waiting for you is a classic coming of age novel - spanning a good year of one teen girls life. Marisa is easy to relate to. Almost too easy, taking me back to those high school days where little things (small fights with your best bud) are the big things. Marisa has recently struggled with anxiety and depression and throughout the book sometimes slips back into that place. It's handled expertly, delving straight into the mind of a teenager with a light touch, never taking the path of melodrama.

Likewise, family issues in the novel are tackled well, as Marisa comes to terms with the image of the family she thought she had and the reality of her parents separation - there's anger, hurt, resentment, disappointment and a yearning to make sense of it all.

The romance. It's a complicated one. There's two boys in the picture and a mysterious third guy. There's juggling of boyfriends and best friends. There's daydreaming and hope and longing and a little bit of kissing too. There's crushing on a best friend, finally getting with the hot guy and romance in her parents, Aunt's and best friends life.

Waiting for you concludes with a powerful message: showing the messy side of relationships and the real side of anxiety, the complications in friendships and the way you can be the difference in your own life - working out who you want to be and how to get there and learning to be happy with who you are. (note: it's done subtlely - no preaching :)

Confession time:
I struggled to initially engage with this novel. Once I got past the first hump (I'll say about 80 pages in) it was a surprisingly addictive and swift little read. I'm glad I settled into the read as by the end I found a lot to admire with how Colasanti handled everything.

The dialogue tags and slang in this alienated me and thumped me out of the book. At first, they grated, then they amused (I'm pretty sure amusement was not the intention). Here's a taste:
He goes, 'What?'
And I'm like 'Seriously'
'Get out!' she's like.
At times they jumped out at me and other times they slipped by as I was more caught up in the story. Still, I'm not really a fan...

And now I will bombard you with quotes which can give you a feel for the heart-beat of the novel :)

I wish it could stay like this forever, with the anticipation of everything. 
I know what it’s like when you just need to be alone for a while and block out the world.
It’s weird how time can change something you thought would always stay the same. 
When everyone expects you to be a certain way, it’s really hard to escape that image. It’s like once everyone decides who you are, you’re locked into their version of you and that’s it. 
I love the beginning of the year. It’s all about renewal and reinventing yourself, becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be. 
But we also need to realize that we all have the power to make those changes for ourselves. We all can change the way things are. Maybe not as much as we want to, but we can at least make things better. 
I probably just didn’t try hard enough to be happy. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t try harder now. 
You can’t go someplace that doesn’t exist anymore. 
Failure is not an option. If your life sucks now, it can only improve later. We all feel alone. We all feel desperate. Know that we’re all in this together. You’re not alone, no matter what. Remember that. 

Recommended: It's a bit of a rainy day comfort read that many teens will easily relate too. It's an easy book to read, with clean prose, which makes it a good choice for a reluctant reader. I would particularly suggest this title to teens who may struggle with depression/anxiety - it's an uplifting read that brings a comforting and powerful message. This book is written brilliantly for a teenage audience but I'm not sure it will have wide appeal beyond that :) 

 It's also a lovely PG - no swearing, sex, drugs or violence - mature middle grade readers may be interested in checking it out.

Waiting For You @ goodreads
Susane Colasanti's Website

Thank to Penguin Australia for providing me with this review copy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Amelia O'Donohue is So Not a Virgin by Helen Fitzgerald

At this boarding school, even the wildest rumors don't measure up to what's really going on...
Rachel Ross is asthmatic and "more bottled up than ketchup," but that's fine. Nothing will prevent her from graduating at the top of her exclusive new boarding school and getting into Oxford.

Rachel refuses to be distracted by the present until she uncovers a shocking secret on campus. She realizes that someone is in desperate need of help and that she actually has something to share-and more friends than she knew.

With an utterly original, hilarious, and honest voice, Amelia O'Donohuedelivers a sexy new boarding school tale with true heart-and a surprise ending you won't forget.

I love Helen Fitzgerald's Adult Fiction, which are darkly funny, wild and always surprising. So I was pretty much absolutely thrilled to hear she had a YA novel coming out.

And it's got a different flavour to most YA out there. It's got the same trademark gutsy pacing - it doesn't linger over scenes but keeps pushing on forward making it a swift and page-flipping read.

I LOVED ADORED the Scottish setting. More please.

As a protagonist, Rachel is pretty different. She's a perfectionist, she's angsty towards her parents, she's drumming it out to her own beat, unconcerned with making friends - more concerned with making grades. She's a keeper of secrets (of which she knows many) and regarding the little bit of romance she has going on the side, she's strangely,  infuriatingly indifferent at times. She may take a bit of getting used to... :)

As for the mystery: Helen Fitzgerald loves to play head games with her readers, and this one's a doozy, haha. Even if you figure out where you think it's going, it doesn't diminish the enjoyment and satisfaction of watching Rachel all the way to the the climax where more than just secrets are revealed. I love a cringe-worthy, LOL showdown and this book delivers. Boy, does it deliver.

It's a book that you appreciate once you're done and join all the dots and see where the author was expertly taking you the whole time. My brain scrambles just thinking about it all. A brilliant nugget of an idea which played out nicely.

Recommended: In all my reading of YA, I can't think of a book to compare this too. It's got such a unique, distinct flavour - it's a blast to read. It's funny and a little bit silly (in that teen way) and perfect for teens (not sure what the crossover appeal is for adults who read YA?).With a narrative style different to most contemporary YA it may be a change from what you may be used to - so looking forward to seeing what others think of this one. It was a fun read for me - from a clever author who dares to be a little bit different.

The trailer for Amelia O'Donohue
Amelia O'Donohue @ goodreads
Amelia O'Donohue @ Amazon
Amelia O'Donohue @ Fantastic Fiction
Helen Fitzgerald's site
Interview with Helen Fitzgerald @ The Book Depository (she sounds like so much fun!)

Isn't the cover pretty awesome (and the title, haha)

xx Nomes

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tagged and contest shout-outs

My mate Melanie tagged me for this blog award. Thanks Melly!

So now I get to pass on ten things about me that I bet you were dying to know:

1. Naomi backwards is I moan. This fact continues to haunt me...

2. I LOVE public speaking. The adrenalin, being on a stage and having everyone's attention just gets me going, haha.

3. When I was 17 I fell off a cliff at The Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. It's one of the freakiest things that's ever happened to me. I thought I was going to die, haha. I went in shock and couldn't stop shaking for ages. I still have scars from it - I know I'm pretty lucky!

4. I have always been besties with the librarians in every place I've lived.

5. My mum is Scottish. My dad is Irish. Dad went to Ireland last year and traced our ancestry to the McTaggart's and the Farquards (like in Shrek). LOL. My brother and I had a bit of a snigger when Dad was telling us. (My maiden name is Taggart).

6. I once wanted a pet rat. I was going to call him Gullyjack. Mum said no, but for some reason, I still reminisce about the rat that never was.

7. When I was 15 I fell off the back of my mates motorbike and landed on my butt in the paddock. I was laughing so hard I didn't notice how badly I was hurt. Unfortunately, when I discovered all the damage, I couldn't show off all my wounds :)

8. The first time I went fishing, I was all pumped because I snagged something heavy on the line. After generating buzz all along the jetty, it turned out to be an old waterlogged shoe. I felt like a character out of a book, catching a shoe :) Mum didn't let me keep it...

Leura Cascades
9. I grew up in the Blue Mountains. We lived opposite Leura Cascades and the cascade started on our property - we had a waterfall running through our yard, a whirlpool, three creeks and a cave in our backyard (4 acres). As well as random bushwalkers who didn't realise they were trespassing :) It was a pretty awesome childhood.

10. I went to India when I was 12. It was a brilliant experience. I plan on taking my kids to some developing nations while they are still young.

I'm tagging Nic @ Irresistible Reads, Bee @ Dreamcatcher's Lair, and Anna @ Cherry Banana Split

Now for some contest linking love :)

Author Jill Hathaway is giving away her copy of the most most highly anticipated BUMPED by Megan McCafferty. Open internationally.

My Girl Friday is giving away a signed copy of one of my favourite books  - Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. I love this book so much! If you're an Aussie you don't want to miss out on this!

The most awesome Caitlin (putting the 'stud' in 'student' since 1994) is having a magical giveaway which includes three winners, all choosing things from The Book Depository. She also runs a pretty funky blog :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

City of Bones - Covers

I haven't done one of these for a while...
 this international cover comparison is for my good mate Melanie - it's her fave YA series :)


This cover is just striking, really.

Early UK/Australian Edition
I only ever saw this version in a Dymocks catalogue, all my shops now stock one very similar to the US.
I do like the cover though, the layers in the blue, and the hair falling over her face is somehow compelling. And the font has it going on. But it's not a stand out for me.

Titled: Shadowhunters
Not sure what's going on here?
Looks like some sort of sniffing ritual.
It makes me think of mimics and drama students for some reason?
Still, it is kind of... smooth? sleek?

Titled: Chronicles of the Underworld
this makes me think of covers from the 90's
and looks slightly more fantasy than urban fantasy.
also vaguely, weirdly, reminds me of an underground level on my old 90's Sonic the Hedgehog game. Ahh, my old Sega...

Titled: The Mortal Cup

I actually like Jace here - he looks the right age (not so god-like as the US edition)
I like the hilt at his wrist.
the rest of the cover though, doesn't really come together for me.

Titled: Hunters of Shadow

both these are similar - and also (I think?) the cover of the second book in the series on the US edition)


I like the illustrated look.
I like the hair tendrils and the smoke. I think if you're going to go dramatic, have the confidence to go all the way. It comes together nicely with the 3D city.


Same again, I'm a fan of the illustrated version.
It does look a teeny bit like he's shaking his hair dry after having a shower.
But who cares? It works for me :)

a tad B grade movie-esque.
Props for going with a scene out of the book though.
I think Jace looks better sans shirt ;)
(here the shirt is billowing out and then fades away. huh.)


Just to be different, lets show the back instead of the chest!
mysterious! moody! angsty!

The most popular cover is a variant of the US edition:

And the Comic Book :)

Which edition is your favourite?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Winners and NaNoWriMo so far...

The winner of Melina Marchetta's The Piper's Son is:

#7 Kristy from the UK

For those who didn't win... you can pre-order your copy of The Piper's Son from The Book Depository now - currently 25% off (US edition)
and the winner of $15 to spend @ The Book Depository is

Thanks everyone else for entering!

For those who have asked... nano... 

My current WIP is titled:

Some kind of Awesome

First line: "Since I found out my dad is the weather man on channel ten it hasn't stopped raining." *

It's meant to be all moody and deep and lingering and heartfelt (but not, please god, melodramatic). But for some reason, it keeps getting comical and absurd. I don't know what's going on but my MC is way too happy for someone with such a depressing life...

i've re-written my first chapter 5 times and i don't think that's the spirit of nano? i can't seem to get my groove. i have also written random scenes to appear later in the story. which is not my usual style. i much prefer to do the linear writing thing. am thinking of starting again even now... ugh, i've had this main character in my head for over a year and i still don't know the best way to go about sharing her story.

enough rambling... as for word count? since nano started i've written at least 15k - but then deleted most of it (maybe i was supposed to wait for the month to be over before deleting so those crap words would count for the word count, yeah? haha). so my document is 8.5k. but am thinking of starting from 0 again. :)

* have heard (numerous times) not to open with the weather. huh. it just happened like that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Imagine, if you will, New York City, 1899 . . .
Society's elite: the glamour, the grandeur, the glittering parties, the most handsome beaus, the most beautiful debutantes, the sounds of decadence, the rich girl, the humble boy, the forbidden love, the hushed whispers, the stolen glances, the secret rendezvous, the sin, the scandal, the mystery, the revenge.
You are cordially invited to step into The Luxe, where the secrets are dark and the sins are delicious . . . (publisher's site)

With the tagline: White Lies. Dark Secrets. Scandalous Hook-ups. you know The Luxe is going to be one of those guilty pleasure books.

There's four main girls and two main boys in a, hmm, you can't really call it a love triangle, because it's much more tangled up and complicated than that...

The girls:

  • two are sisters: beautiful, elite and rich - secretly on the brink of poverty. Elizabeth is in a secret affair and Diana's kissing someone she shouldn't be... 
  • another is a best friend, gorgeous and flirtatious and scheming. (Penelope)
  • and the fourth is a maid, watching on and seeing more than she should. (Lina)

The boys:

  • one an utterly gorgeous player, a wealthy bachelor with a rowdy reputation. (Henry)
  • the other, a stable boy who heats things up in the barn. Quite nicely. (Will)

Mix it all up with a high profile engagement, family secrets and forbidden affairs and you have a glamourous and deliciously compelling read.

The strength in this book is in the story-telling. It's told from multiple points of view so it took a little while to set the scene. But once you settle in (for me - it was the 50 page mark) the pages just fly by. Godbersen knows how to plot and throws in twists and revelations, hints and secrets in a such a timely way that you're constantly tempted to keep reading the next chapter.

At it's core it's a story of forbidden love, temptation, family duty verse desire. Expect scheming and betrayals and flirting and broken hearts. Despite some sexy shenanigans, it's very PG and told in a fun and glittering manner.

It's a socialite, glitzy novel set in a historical era rather than historical fiction that explores a historical period. There's no social commentary or wider scope of the world at the turn of the 20th century, it's not a period study. But you can expect New York High Society balls and fashion and gowns and girls who are chasing dashing boys despite the rules of etiquette and decorum. (And the boys are chasing them back). These girls like breaking the rules and living a little bit dangerously.

It feels like Godbersen is more than comfortable writing in this era, her language and narration all add to the tone of period.

For all the fun in the pages, it's not a character driven novel. Godbersen is weaving a story of high drama and taking us along for the ride. Characters motivations remain easy to understand, but are not explored in depth. I didn't overly care for any of the characters - I cared more about the actual story. It's not a book designed to linger, but to give readers a good time while reading it.

A few discussion-y thoughts:

I loved all the little letters and newpapers articles and invitations that were scattered throughout the pages.

I really didn't dig the prologue. Not only did it overwhelm me (I felt like I had to concentrate with so many new characters filling the scene at once) but it also, for me, took some of the oomph out of the climax/resolution. I read it twice and it still didn't grab me into the book.

Henry Cavill
haha, this picture amuses me
and suits Henry from the book as well
anyone else watch the Tudors?
I kind of imagined Henry as Henry Cavill. Hey, it works for me ;)  (even Henry's character somewhat matches the early playboy portrayal of Charles Brandon in the Tudors).

My favourite girl is Diana - she's a spunk, feisty, fun and a bit of a dreamer and not so overwrought as a few of the others :)

The Luxe is a New York Times Bestselling novel which is available now

Recommended: Perfect for a rainy day indulgent read, anyone who loves a bit of soapie scandal will devour this book. The best thing is - all four books in the series are out, so no excruciating waiting between book releases (the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger...)

I liked it. I read it in two indulgent days. But didn't quite love it :)
(If we're talking ratings, I'm giving it 3 stars)

More stuff to check out
The Luxe Website
Read an Excerpt
Read the Prologue
More about Elizabeth (who is the girl on the cover)
The Luxe @Penguin Australia

Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy

Winner of the Young Adult 2010 Prime Minister's Literary Awards

For a refresher, here's the list of books nominated for the award:

Young adult fiction

It's the first year there has been a Young Adult prize, so no previous winners :) 

It's a really tough competition with the standard of the short lists being so high. 

  • My personal favourite on this list is Beatle Meets Destiny
  • I thought Stolen was exceptional
  • Jarvis 24 and Swerve are two brilliant male POV's (Jarvis 24 won the CBCA for older readers this year)
  • I've read all except for two: The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Gold, and Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God by Bill Condon.

Anyways, on to the winner (which includes a 100k tax free cash prize)

I have this annoying problem that gives me a lot of trouble: a conscience. 

Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys’ school in which teachers rule with iron fists and thick leather straps. Some crumble under the pressure but Neil toughs it out, just as his Vietnam-bound older brother has done before him. He has to be a man, after all. But at sixteen, how can he be sure of himself when he’s not sure of anything else? 
He loses a friend and finds another, falls in love and unwittingly treads a path that leads to revenge and possibly murder . . . (from goodreads)
And the judge's comments:

Judges’ comments

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God is a poignant, funny and deeply insightful rite of passage novel. Set in 1967, the author makes it seem contemporary, skilfully employing a nuanced first-person narration. Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys’ school where classmate Ray (Zom) is accused by a Brother of stealing a wallet and is expelled after a fight with his accuser. Neil knows who stole the wallet, but refuses to tell. Ray’s father is so ashamed that Ray is cut off from his family – save for his older sister Sylvana. Neil falls in love with Sylvana, but, implicated in Ray’s disgrace, his loyalties and motives are deeply conflicted. The pain of first love, and the morality attached to individual life choices, is evoked with real empathy. Confessionsof a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God also portrays the strength of ordinary families and the love even between warring brothers. There’s a poignant hint too, of more loss ahead, in Neil’s brother Kevin’s conscription for the Vietnam War. Condon declines to indulge in historical revisionism, while the economical prose attains a rhythm that is almost poetry. The short, chiselled chapters ensure that not a word is wasted. Condon is a writer of considerable craft who eschews the flamboyant in search of deeper truths.

Congrats to Bill Condon and to all authors short-listed :)