Monday, April 29, 2013

Five Recent Reads I've loved #minireviews

I really love evangelising about favourite new reads. Time constraints mean I often neglect reviewing so many books I read (oh, man, I am so guilty of this). These five books are recent favourites that I loved and devoured. I've written basic little mini reviews for each one and I so sincerely hope you might find a new favourite here, too :) -- It's been such a great reading year for me so far...

This was refreshingly addictive with a great vibe. 

Mostly, I loved Devan's voice in this. She was so fun to read. This contemporary YA has moving to a new school , getting to know (or not) an estranged mum, a huge musical element (I don't even like musicals-- well, I sometimes like the stories, I just don't like the bits where the people sing, haha--, but I loved this book). 

This was fun and breezy with some high emotional moments to give it some depth. Very much looking forward to Amy Spalding's next book (out later this year!) Ink is Thicker Than Water. 

This series is shaping up to be one of my fave YA dystopians. 

I loved being back in June and Day's world. Despite the very real danger and the stakes rising, there is also a lot of fun to be had. I had forgotten how much I love both June and Day. In particular, Day is such a sympathetic character, layered, tough but sensitive, and he is pitched against his friends and I really felt for him. I really like him, yeah? (haha). 

Things get complicated and loyalties are tested and there's plot twists and a very enigmatic and compelling new Elector Primo, Anden. Who can you trust? There's a bit of a cliffie, but I loved it. It was a punch in the guts kind of ending and I am so hanging out for the final book. 

*I read this with my good friend, Nic. We both loved it and had a lot of fun.

 I love Lisa Schroeder. She is on my auto-buy list of favourite authors.I bought this without realising it is her debut non-verse (regular prose with some poems scattered throughout) book. I also saw mixed reviews before beginning. I am SO happy to say I am on the LOVE side. 

What a completely heart-felt little book this is. My heart broke and I was full of hope and well wishes for our the lovely Rae. I got swept into this story and even shed a tear or two :) Also, Schroeder's prose is just gorgeous. I love her writing and her themes and the way she brought light into darkness.  

Warning: I think both the blurb and the cover of this are unfortunately misleading. It's not a kissy romance book. It's also not about one typical story just dealing with abuse. ALSO the first 100 pages might begin as cliché  but the plot veers right of in it's own unique and unexpected direction. I would love to see more people find this quietly awesome gem of a book.

My first Lisa Kleypas, you guys! This is a historical romance and it was deliciously fun and addictive. I often struggle with this genre, but Kleypas had just the right amount of tension and romance coupled with enough back story to make me actually care for the characters. 

The leads in this one are the kind of antagonistic coupling where they goad each other on in this love/hate kind of thing. She's wild and fun and unpredictable and he's a hot and brooding alpha male type. It's also just a little bit hot ;)

I'll be reading more Kleypas, and very soon.

Oh, mate, I really loved this romantic verse novel from Sarah Tregay. It was fun and cute and swoony and just a delicious rainy-day feel good read. 

From the cover and so many swoony and favourable reviews I expected it to be all that, but I didn't anticipate just how addictive it would be, and how much I would grin and sigh my way through it. So recommended. I read this on my kindle but am itching to buy a copy for my shelves (hopefully a paperback will be released). SO GOOD.    

Have you read any of these? Or are you planning too?

What's a recent new favourite book you've read?

Monday, April 22, 2013

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Pitched as The Passage meets Ender's Game, The 5th Wave is already creating a lot of hype. I am not a sucker for hype, guys, especially in a genre that has, at times, been over-saturated. I didn't read much about The 5th Wave before beginning it, and I liked it that way.

The first thing that captured me about it was Cassie's authentic teen voice. Compelling, genuine and refreshing. More so  the tone and opening chapters of the book reminded me of Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (my fave YA series of all time, MY GOSH, I love it so). By chapter four I was seriously (suddenly) excited.

I love the feeling of realising you are reading (what is bound to be) a favourite new book. The premise sucked me in, the characters were relate-able and the plot moved along so expertly: revealing new information at crucial moments, bursts of action perfectly balanced with introspection and flashbacks and just when the book felt like it couldn't get more awesome BAM along came some swoon* (nicely done).

I charged through this book. It felt fully realised and intricately plotted. There's four POVs (although two of those are just a smidgen). What I really loved about this book (and look forward to exploring as the series continues) is all the shades of grey. Who can you really trust? Even when you decide who you are going to trust, have you made the right decision? Who is the enemy? What is the future?

I loved the creativity in this fallen earth. The waves and the terror and the survival of a remnant.      

Also: the prose. I can't quote from the e-galley but I highlighted some lush and gorgeously worded lines. It helped seal the deal the for me.

Yes, I think this deserves the hype. So many people are going to love this book. I'm excited for such a high quality YA post-apocalyptic to recommend to fans of The Hunger Games and Tomorrow When the War Began. I cannot wait for my own kids to read it, my husband and my family and friends.   

*as for the swoon, MY GOSH. It's not all mushy and dramatic. It's more achey with it's quietness and the sense of whether or not they can trust one another. Still, he's a babe and the romantic tension is just fab and I can't wait for more. 

The Fifth Wave @ goodreads

Thanks to Penguin Australia and netgalley for my review copy

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

A charming and laugh-out-loud novel by Lauren Graham, beloved star of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, about an aspiring actress trying to make it in mid-nineties New York City.

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works. Meanwhile, she dreams of doing "important" work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It's hard to tell if she'll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won't call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet. Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.

I love the premise of the book (struggling actress! peanut butter commercials! charming guy in acting class! room-mates!) and I adore Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls fame). This book called out to me as a comfort read: cute and smiley and fun with a bit of angst thrown in.

This book was (as the blurb promises) CHARMING. Franny is delightfully charming, slightly quirky and kind of all over the place. She has the best of intentions and clings to her dreams... yet is constantly floundering - she's in danger of losing her waitressing job, her auditions never quite go as planned, others around her seems to be getting all the breaks.

Despite, at times, loving the narration, I felt Franny's asides started to weigh the story down and some scenes took a while to get through. At 30% in I felt like the book was only just getting started and I was kind of on the edge of my seat waiting for the plot to take off, but just as it did, the book ended. 

It's a catch 22 for me: I love how Graham narrates, but the narration really bogged down the plot. Which meant even as I adored certain whimsical and charming scenes, the story as whole did not enchant me as I had hoped it would. I guess I love Graham's writing and the charm of it all, but wanted more from the story. More swoon, more stakes, more action. 

Still. It was a lovely way to spend my afternoon. A breezy kind of chick lit read which I couldn't help but cast Lauren Graham herself as Franny. If you are a fan of chick lit and/or Lauren Graham you should definitely check this out for a relaxing and smiley Sunday afternoon read. 

many thanks to Random House & netgalley for my review copy

Monday, April 8, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I really enjoyed Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles last year. It was dynamic and fun and all fairy-taleish with sci-fi elements. Scarlet takes that small taste of the deliciously creative and colourful world glimpsed in Cinder and amps it up to a new level. The plot moves faster, there's new characters that bring flashes of humour and there's more swoon and ambiguity. Where Cinder was predictable, Scarlet keep it's playing cards hidden that bit more.  

Despite being named Scarlet, the story breaks itself out evenly between continuing the thread of Cinder and Prince Kai's story from Cinder, and introducing us to Scarlet (her missing, probably tortured grandmother) and Wolf the street-fighting, criminal (?) guy who has connections. 

I loved Wolf. And I definitely think I wanted more of him. I found him utterly enigmatic. Equal parts ruthless and charming. I also couldn't pick his role in this: Was he the main enemy aka The Big Bad Wolf from Little red Riding Hood, or was there a twist with this swoony guy? Scarlet was such a fab addition to the cast: feisty, sure of herself, determined and driven by her love for her grandmother. 

I kind of bumped my way along in this book. While I was reading it, I was liking it. When I had to set it down, I found I wasn't aching to pick it back up, but when I did I would get into it again. I liked all the POVs and plot threads weaving around each other, but I think a more linear story would have held my attention more. There was so much going on, but my attention still wandered. How does that work? 

I loved the idea of the story itself, but despite reading being my favourite platform for a story, I think I would have loved it more if it were, say, a mini series on TV - wouldn't that be vibrant and addictive and deliciously fun? 

Guys, if you loved the first book, or even liked or were intrigued by Cinder, this should be on your reading list. The general consensus is that Scarlet is even better. This series is shaping up to be a big one in the YA world. I can't even think of what to compare it with? (that could be because I am not sci-fi YA savvy, but I tend to believe it is because this series is truly unique, haha). 

Scarlet @ goodreads

Scarlet @ Penguin Australia

Thanks to Penguin Australia for my review copy :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

If He Had Been With me by Laura Nowlin

Throughout their whole childhood, Finny and Autumn were inseperable - they finished each other's sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has always wondered what if...

The night she's about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy. 

It has been a long time since I have fallen so hard for a contemporary YA novel. I have barely heard of any buzz surrounding Laura Nowlin's debut. I ordered it on a whim, not really sure what to expect. I liked the cover, the premise sounded like my kind of thing and I always like the chase of finding a YA book free of preconceived hopes and praise. 

I was unprepared for just how good this book is, easily my favourite YA book of the year so far and it now sits on my favourites shelf.

Nowlin is a born storyteller. And this book differs from other YA books as it spans over three years of Autumn's life (told in the present, but it also encapsulated much more than that with memories and flashbacks). I love the time span of this novel, it stretched ahead of me and wrapped itself around me and I was entirely absorbed into Autumn's world.

This is a YA coming-of-age love story, but not in that swoony, predictable way. It hit me harder than a just the regular dreamy smile for the hot guy next door (and Finny is a hot boy living next door): I felt it right through to my stomach and to my chest constricting as I watched August and Finny together. The things left unsaid, the memories swirling around them, hope's dashed, future's uncertain. 

Nowlin so perfectly captures that teen voice: the misunderstandings between teenagers, the things unsaid, the dreams, the doubts, the wildly good times and also snatches of depression. I love Autumn as she felt so real. no aspect of her was gimmicky. She was fully nuanced, so gorgeous and bold and different without ever falling into a YA cliché and I loved seeing the world from her eyes. She was the perfect blend of confident and unsure. Nothing was black and white: I loved all the shades of grey in her feelings and everything that was going on in her world. I loved her for her fairytale hopes all mashed up with trying to face reality. For her love of reading and her uncompromising stance on who she was, even as she was trying to figure out the very same thing. 

And, oh, how I love the history of her relationship with Finny. There are a lot of flashbacks and memories and I never grew tired of it. I felt included in their lives. Finny himself is now one of my most favourite YA boys, not just as a gorgeous love interest, but for who he was. 

If He Had Been With Me has it's own unique vibe. The prose sometimes has it's own jaunty little rhythm, other times passages are so so poignant and heartfelt that my chest constricted. The writing was deeply personal, holding nothing back. 

With such a lush scope of three years plus, Nowlin explores so many experiences: friendships, cliques, first love, divorce, mental health, sex, all those gorgeous moments caught between the mystery and promise of adulthood looming ahead while thinking back on childhood. 

The thing about this book is it just kept getting better and better. For me, it was like meeting a new friend, and liking them, and then getting to know them until they become one of those lifelong besties that you cannot imagine life without. I liked Autumn so much from the outset, but she grew on me, exponentially so, as did her friends, her mum (and aunty) and, of course, Finny and now I just have this love for them and I know I won't ever be forgetting this gorgeous, beautiful and achey story. 

For discussion: I would have preferred the book without the prologue chapter. The writing itself pulled me into the story, that and the promise of what was to come - I did not need such a dramatic hook. I also am not a fan of the blurb that's on GR. I think it changes the reading experience (luckily, I did not read the blurb on that site - which is also used on most bloggers review posts, amazon, etc - and only read the back cover of the book). The ending felt rushed, then abrupt. I think I needed a tiny bit longer to linger in the story, to make sense of it all, but I understand what Nowlin was trying to do. 

I can't stop thinking about this story. I am crazily excited to fall this hard for a debut author and cannot wait to read more of Nowlin's work (understatement). I have a new absolute favourite book, so much passages bookmarked. I have so much love for this book and hope it falls into many hands. I envy those readers their first time reading experience waiting before them. LOVE

(Confession: I stayed up until 4.30am to finish this one. My only regret is it's already over...)

Perfect Theme Song: The Special Two by Missy Higgins (love this song so much, love Autumn and Finny)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Things I've Been Loving Lately

1. Absolutely been loving the movie Before Sunrise 
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise (1995)
Have you guys seen these movies? Before Sunrise is about an American boy and a French girl who meet on a train and then spend a day (and a night) together in the city of Vienna. It's a romance, it's intelligent and sincere and hopeful and captures so much about being in your early twenties and life waiting ahead of you. It's gorgeous and completely swoony and smiley so heartfelt and original and if it was a YA novel it would be sitting on my absolute favourite shelf.

I so recommend it as a must see for all YA fans. Do yourself a favour and check it out (Did I mention it has a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes?)

2. Before Sunset 
Did I mention how much I love Before Sunrise? Well, the best news is: there is a sequel: Before Sunset. And the whole concept of it is brilliant. Nine years later Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke came together again to film this sequel that is set nine years later. Now in their early thirties they meet again in Vienna, you can see what has happen to them a decade on. Just as charming and engaging as the first one.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunset, nine years on
AND the good news is, the third installment, Before Midnight is coming to theatres in May this year, another decade on:
Screenshot from Before Midnight

3. Missy Higgins

I have always loved Missy but lately I am on such a kick (her 2012 album, the ol' razzle dazzle is so so good). She's my favourite Female Aussie artist, I love her lyrics and her vibe and her voice. I can't even pick a favourite track as they are so varied and good. I have embedded a track below as I love the themes (of letting it all go and steering your own life) and also as it's the song set to my alarm which wakes me up on weekdays (love being woken up by a guitar strum)

4. The Bookish Manicurist

Mandee, an Aussie blogger from Vegan YA Nerds, has started a new blog that combines her passion for books and nails, featuring her original mani's that match the books she's been reading. They're simply gorgeous and creative and Mandee is one of the nicest, most genuine bloggers around. I so recommend you check her out :) I have been so loving her designs and tutorials.

5. The Walking Dead

Juuust finished watching season three. Which was so addictive and just plain good fun. Anyone else a fan?

6. Holidays

It's school holidays in Queenslad and I love this time of year. We've been chilling out with board games (our favourites lately include: Caracassonne, Settlers of Catan, Labyrinth, Monopoly Deal Millionaire, Risk and $GREED)

And we've been bushwalking about the place. Today we climbed Mount Coolum (see below) with the kids and the views on top of the Sunshine Coast were just so stunning. 

Mount Coolum on the Sunshine Coast
7. Reading

I've also been reading a bit ;) I have some reviews coming up (half written in my drafts) and have found a few new favourite books, plus been a tiny bit let down with others. here's some books I've read lately:

More to come on these books soon. (Three of these I did not love, although I thought I would for sure.)

AND that's it for now. I would love to know what you've been up to? Any fab books you've been reading? Any TV shows or dvds to recommend?

Peace out

Nomes xo