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?