Friday, May 24, 2013

Haze by Paula Weston

"But what if we can’t find Jude?" 
He leans closer. His breath is warm on my ear. "We will."
"How can you be so sure?" I want to believe him so badly, but this is Rafa. The guy who’s all action and no plan. His smile is tired, knowing. An echo of a shared past I don’t remember. 
"Because I’m not smart enough to give up, and you don’t know how to."

Gaby Winters’ nightmares have stopped but she still can’t remember her old life. Still can’t quite believe she is one of the Rephaim—the wingless half-angels who can shift from place to place, country to country, in the blink of an eye. That she was once the Rephaim’s best fighter. That demons exist. That Rafa has stayed. 

But most of all, she can’t quite believe that her twin brother, Jude, might be alive. 

And Gaby can’t explain the hesitancy that sidetracks the search for him, infuriates Rafa, and sends them, again, into the darkest danger.

I loved paula's debut, Shadows, so, so much (despite it not sounding like a me kind of book). It was addictive and intelligent and sexy as anything. I was stalking my mail box for the sequel to arrive and, you guys, the wait was more than worth it. I loved Haze even more than Shadows. 

Straight up: I read this within a 24 hour period, finishing it at 4am. Those are the kind of reading memories I love, being so into a book I cannot turn my light out until I turn that last bittersweet page. 

Haze leaves off straight after the events of Shadows and I was instantly pulled back into Gaby's world. The plot takes you to places you will not expect. Not just in terms of plot twists and revelations  but Weston manages to incorporate so many vivid and unique settings -- from fictional Pan Beach (Queensland coastal town) to Dubai,  to the island of Patmos, to Melbourne, to the cornfields of Iowa and beyond... I felt like I was travelling the world, the sights and sounds are dazzling. (Also! Bungee jumping in Switzerland. I KNOW.)

This Aussie book has everything I love about Aussie YA: there is something in the water and Weston has so tapped into it. Her characters are three dimensional. The prose is eloquent without being flowery. Weston writes with so much vitality, life springs from the pages. The dialogue is snappy and authentic. 
Emotions run high and ring true. The action is swift and tense and believable. There's a lot of arse-kicking, on both sides. The danger is real, the stakes are high and the Rephaim deliver. I'm still reeling...


[Let's take a moment here to pause...]

He brought the swoon in Shadows, smouldering and sexy and dangerous and completely enigmatic. In Haze, Weston turns the heat up *fans self* while also peeling a few layers back. There are these little peeks into his soul, when his guard is down, that show so much more than meets the eye. I mean, could he get any hotter? Those glimpses of vulnerability and compassion slew me. 

Gaby and Rafa are everything I love about romance. They are still sizzling on this crazy slow burn which just kills me. Sparks fly and the sexual tension is palpable. At the same time, Weston shows seasoned restraint, she adds depth, creates tension, gives these delicious moments to get your pulse racing and then amps up the mystery between them again. She knows when to tease and when to reveal and it's a delicate, maddening perfect dance between those two and the readers. 

There are so many shades of grey in Gaby's world. Who can she trust? Who was she before? Her relationships with the other Rephaim are constantly shifting. I love that. I love how Weston keeps us on our toes with the history and loyalties between Gaby and everyone else.  

My favourite plot-lines are concerning Gaby and her past: her brother and her search for him. Rafa and their history. In these moments I ache for Gaby, tough but vulnerable, lost and thrown into this crazy world of non-stop action. She barely has a chance to come to grips with everything amongst the chaos that is erupting around her. I want so much for her to find her answers, to find her happiness, to feel like she has a place in her world.        

The rights to this four book series have been sold to both the UK and the US. I am so pumped there are still two more books to come. I have no idea where Weston will take us next but I know I am so on board with whatever she has planned. I cannot recommend this series enough. 

p.s. Be on the look out for more Foo Fighters.
p.p.s. That cliff-hanger! Way to end on this crazy, adrenalin moment...   

Haze is out in Australia now!

Thanks so much to Text publishing for my review copy x

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects. Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully had "social difficulties" that manifested in his wearing a pig snout mask 24-7. I was surface clean but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering...

It's summer in St Kilda. Fifteen-year-old Sky is looking forward to great records and nefarious activities with Nancy, her older, wilder friend. Her brother – Super Agent Gully – is on a mission to unmask the degenerate who bricked the shop window. Bill the Patriarch seems content to drink while the shop slides into bankruptcy. A poster of a mysterious girl and her connection to Luke, the tragic-hot new employee sends Sky on an exploration into the dark heart of the suburb. Love is strange. Family Rules. In between there are teenage messes, rock star spawn, violent fangirls, creepy old guys and accidents waiting to happen. If the world truly is going to hell in a hand-basket then at least the soundtrack is kicking. Sky Martin is Girl Defective: funny, real and dark at the edges.

Guys, I have shamefully been procrastinating reviewing Simmone Howell's outstanding new book.  I felt intimidated to review this one because I truly just want to get my review right. I struggle to find words that will encapsulate my reading experience, the heart and the essence of the book and also the brilliant, careful and loving way in which it is written.

This book is truly as awesome as the cover (and the wickedly funny/awesome/crazy/unique blurb)suggests. 

I loved the prose. Howell has this wicked way of delivering lines. Her dialogue cracks, her characters are painted in just a few swift words. She coins phrases and pitches words against each other that seem like an unlikely pairing but are actually brilliantly perfect.

She nails, nails, the coming of age stuff. It's this perfect blend of naivety banging up against loss of innocence and the underside of a very gritty world. It's hopeful and lonely and full of longing and wishes and, on one hand you see how idealistic the characters can be while at the same time they come to terms with just how real and tough the world can be.  Take a look at this gorgeous quote:

I had a shock of yearning, of wishing I was Nancy  The feeling was sharp and it carried a shadow  I was always on the edge of something that was never going to happen. (page 46)

This is another one of those Aussie YA books that bring Melbourne to full colour, thriving life. I love how the setting itself becomes a character. The nightclubs, the streets, the artwork and the houses all add this incredible atmosphere. Most of all, the record shop. It felt timeless and true and like an homage to all the great music that has come before. 

This is such a beautiful and original book. To be frank, Simmone's work here is grittier than my preference. I remain eternally idealistic, optimistic and naive and seeing a darker side of things usually leaves me uncomfortable, a tiny feeling of unease pooling in my belly. Not so, here. It was balanced out beautifully by our sweet narrator. Sky is just beautiful and genuine, Gully tugged at my heart strings, and Nancy, in spite of her flaws, was appealing as that lost charismatic/wild girl. (check this snippet from Nancy, talking to Sky: 'I don't want to see the world, kid. I want to see the weird.' (Nancy, page 9)) And another one,Sky on Nancy: Kid, was what she called me. or little sister, or girlfriend, or dollbaby, or monkeyface. Sometimes she even used my name - Skylark, Sky - all in that drawl that felt like fingernails on my back lightly scratching itches I didn't even know I had.' (page 3)

I love the family vibe in this one. Full of ache and brokenness and despair and genuine love. I love that Howell takes all these quirky things (mannerisms and personalities and obsessions) and somehow makes them seem so entirely normal and true. This is possibly one of my all time fave quotes about family: 

Gully and I groaned and laughed. With the lights soft and everyone's faces all shiny happy I felt flooded with warmth - it was like we'd been infected with a buzzing, shaggy, loveliness that I guessed meant the best kind of family. (page 139)

I loved the mystery. There was also some swoon: I was not interested in Luke Casey. I was not going to jump him or fall for his hot and tragic combo. (page 81) Well, the hot and tragic combo pretty much had me interested from the get-go, haha. 

And, oh my gosh, isn't Sky just the most charmingest of narrators: And the more I drank the less weird I felt. Then we were laughing again, and nothing was serious and we were in the moment and the moment was everything. [...] The grass in the dark looked like velvet. I lay upon it and stared up at the sky. The stars were spinning. I might have hugged a tree before puking. (page 171)

Okay, so my review is all over the place and I have tried to piece it together but it's just not happening. I hope somewhere in my review you can catch just the tiniest glimpse of the magic and heart inside these pages  I bookmarked this book to pieces. It's got charm and originality and heartbreak and mystery and these awesome detective style reports interspersed. It has the Melbourne vibe going on (you know what I mean). It is also lonely and sad in just the right amounts (and I like that in a book). 

Note on the cover: it is so much more awesome in person. Also, it's from the book! The poster had appeared the week before on the wall opposite the shop. It was a stencil of a girls' face, three feet high below a concrete sky. She had black hair and eyes. her lips were slightly parted and a single tear rolled down her cheek (page 9)

Girl Defective @ goodreads

Girl Defective @ Pan Macmillan (an extract included on publisher's site)

Please forgive my quote-heavy review. I just couldn't help myself :) Plus, the best way to try and encapsulate this book is to show you a peek of some gems that lie inside.

Thanks so much to Pan Macmillan for my review copy :)