Saturday, August 26, 2017

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail ~ Review

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can't breathe, can't walk, can't anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. 

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie's beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She's had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best. 

It s all good. Well, almost all. She's trying.

Well, That Was Awesome!

Hello, new favourite book :)

Well, That Was Awkward is one brilliantly funny, very clever, unputdownable, grin-worthy absolute blast of a book. Oh my gosh, I loved it so. 

Well, That Was Awkward is a charming loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac ~ always a fun premise to remake for teens of today ~ who are texting and emoji-ing all over the place. It's a real feel-good story with delicious puns, quick witted humour, a tortoise (and a rabbit), a suddenly cute boy, best friends, epic inside jokes (Never. Gonna. Happen.), and the perfect amount of depth to flesh out all the characters. The characters are in grade 8 and they are perfectly awesome.  Oh, and the parents were also complete classics! I love when parents are just as funny and original as the teen characters (shout out to all you awesome parents out there! Haha). 

True to the title, there were many hilariously awkward moments, so this should be your next read when you're in the mood for some LOLs (haha). I seriously loved this ~ it's a perfect blend of some of my fave things in fiction: light-hearted fun with the perfect amount of angst, awkward shenanigans, characters who are my people, and a plot which builds in anticipation to a sweet. sweet climax and charming and cool resolution. 

Note: this is a perfect one for all the MG readers out there, as well as YA readers - and adults who love to smile and reminisce about those awkward early teen years, haha. 

Well, That Was Awkward @ goodreads

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Interview with author Pip Harry #LoveOzYA

I am so happy to introduce Pip Harry to inkcrush. Pip is a #LoveOzYA author who writes contemporary novels for young adults. Her award winning novels are not just faves of mine, but of readers everywhere around the globe. She shares with us a bit about her inspriation for her lastest novel Because of You, her writing process, advice for writers, recent favourite reads and more...
Author Pip Harry

Hello and welcome to inkcrush, Pip Harry :) It's so good to chat with you on here right after the release of your 3rd YA novel Because of You. (I feel honoured for you to be stopping by!)
Hello and thank you lovely Naomi for having me!
You've mentioned before that your best writing comes when you can personally relate on some level to the story. Can you share some of your own life experience that sparked Tiny and Nola's story?
I definitely need to emotionally click into the story on some level, so that’s always a big part of choosing what to write about. It takes me a couple of years to complete a novel, so I have to care deeply about the characters and story to stay interested and engaged!  In my own life I met many tenacious, funny and intelligent homeless people while working as a volunteer once a week in a shelter, helping to facilitate a creative writing program.  My experience with that program and those incredible writers sparked the story of Because of You. We even took our group to the Sydney Writers’ Festival to perform, which echoes a later scene in Because of You!
[N: I think the way you care for your characters reflects in the way readers also come to deeply care for them! And I am so thrilled that the later scene in Because of You was sparked by real events ~ incredible!]
I love both Tiny and Nola, who have not only different backgrounds and circumstances, but have unique voices and ways of looking at the world. Did the voices of Tiny and Nola come to you strongly formed or did it take a while to get to know them before you were able to flesh out their story?
Tiny and Nola couldn’t be more different, so their friendship initially presented me with challenges. How would they first talk? What would they talk about? In the end, I realised they are still teenage girls, so initially they talk about boys and eat baked goods!
Tiny came to me pretty much fully formed and ready for action – but Nola was a problem child. In early drafts, she was coming off as very self-centred and whiny and my beta readers said they couldn’t relate to her as much as Tiny. They were right! I kept a little of Nola’s spoilt side in the final version, but explored her home life and relationships more deeply to give her more edge and depth.
[N: Haha! Yes to boys and baked goods! ;) ]
One of my favourite things about your writing is meeting and falling in love with -- and being inspired by -- your characters. You write characters who are flawed, make mistakes, and struggle with all kinds of conflicting emotions and insecurities. At the same time, these characters are courageous, brave, true, and have moments of startling empathy, wisdom and honesty. How do you approach crafting your characters? (Plus any tips for budding writers?)
Oooh, that’s such nice feedback, thank you! I’m a very flawed person myself and I make all kinds of mistakes and I’m incredibly insecure at times … so all that goes into my characters! You will never find me creating a perfect human in my books, because they just don’t exist. I’m especially careful to write parents who have their own problems and inconsistencies, as I think that’s true to life. Tips for budding writers: don’t be afraid to be honest and get your character’s flaws down on the page, but also allow them to have moments of true courage and emotion. Allow them to be vulnerable and true.
[N: That is so true about parents ~ being one myself ;). It's your vulnerable and courageous characters that make your stories resound long after reading the last page]
I know you're more of a pantser than a plotter. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works for you? Do you get a lot of surprises along the way? (Any awesome surprises while writing Because of You?) Do you fly through your first draft and then face massive structural edits once you have found the story, or do you feel out the story over lots of versions and then plan once you know where you're headed?
Oh yes, always a pantser. I enjoy the surprises along the way, some of the things my characters do are SO unexpected. That keeps it interesting for me. In Because of You, I had no idea Mari (Tiny’s friend) was going to show up in the city. She just popped up! And the poetry was a bit surprising, I’d never really written poetry before.
I do not fly through any stage of writing books. 😉 More accurately I plod along, sometimes speeding up, sometimes dragging my heels, until I can type ‘The End’. I always print out the first draft and force myself to read it in raw form (and it’s usually pretty terrible) then I radically edit and polish before sending it to a few trusted readers. I do feel out the story as I go, and Because of You was changing right up to the final days before printing.
[N: Oh! The poetry was definitely one of the fave elements of Because of You for me. I reread some of those passages a few times over. You definitely have a poets way of capturing moments and sharing secrets and emotions through verse]
What is it you love most about writing? Was there a writing highlight while working on Because of You?
I love being in another world with my characters and taking them on a journey, and then I love sharing that journey with readers. My highlight while working on Because of You was taking the manuscript to the Djerassi Artists Retreat outside San Francisco. There, I did a YA workshop with 11 other writers and facilitator Nova Ren Suma. It was magical, and set the book on the right path and made me believe in it again.
What is something you struggle with as a writer? 
Starting the first draft is difficult for me, and I always put it off until the characters are screaming at me.  
What is one of your favourite things about writing for teenagers?
Teens are so open to new ideas, so engaged with the writing and super smart. I feel really privileged to write for and about them. I really, really love school visits.
[N: As a teacher-librarian I know how much students love author visits! At a recent author visit for Book Week, one student told me (after talking to the author in a writing workshop) it 'was the best day of his life' :) ~ and students always leave so inspired and affirmed.]
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? 
Do not ever give up or listen to the voice that says you’re no good. That voice is wrong. Keep at it, keep learning and keep writing.
Can you share some of your favourite books? (Everyone loves a good book rec!)
Ooh, yes please! This year I have been blown away by the wonderful romances and relationships in Gabrielle Tozer’s Remind Me How This Ends, Steph Bowe’s Night Swimming and Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue.

[N: Three gorgeous #LoveOzYA novels! Speaking of author visits, my daughter met both Cath Crowley and Steph Bowe in July (a couple of weeks ago!) at a readers/writers festival and came home very inspired and full of excitement. Of course, I made her nearly repeat their sessions verbatim ~ hoping to catch just a sprinkle of their magic!]
What did you do to celebrate the book birthday of Because of You?
The weekend before my book came out I flew to Bali and stayed in a villa with four girlfriends. We raised many a cocktail glass in celebration!
Thank you so much for sharing with us! 
Thank you Nomes! I’ve had so much fun.
[N: Me too! All the best with your writing projects, school visits and continuing to celebrate!]

Pip Harry is the author of YA novels I'll Tell You Mine, Head of the River and Because of You (Aug, 2017). A freelance writer and editor Pip has worked on a stack of women's magazines like Woman's Day, TV Week, New Idea and NW as well as for non-profit organisations. She currently lives in Singapore with her family and eats way too many noodles. When not at a keyboard her favourite things to do are swim laps (really), try variations of eggs and toast in hipster cafes, unravel on a yoga mat and read fiction. Her favourite hashtag is #LoveOzYA. (source: goodreads)

Q & A at #LoveOzYA

Because of you @ UQP (incl. Teacher's Notes)

My reviews for Pip Harry's novels:

Have you read Pip Harry yet? ;)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#LoveOzYA Giveaway & Survey

Just a heads up for everyone ~ you can be a part in helping to gather data on the reading habits of readers of Young Adult fiction.
The #LoveOzYA crew are giving away over $1000 in books to 5 lucky winners as an incentive to particpate in a survey regarding your reading habits. The survey data will be collated into a report which will be invaluable in informing on the reading habits of Young Adult readers. Obviously, the more who participate in the survey, the more the data will reflect the reading community ~ so check out the link below to take the survey and find out more info. 
#LoveOzYA is a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. For your chance to snap up a share of over $1000 worth of books, simply fill out this survey all about your reading habits
(the survey is open until the end of September ~ plenty of time to pass on the link to any other YA readers in your world)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Because of You by Pip Harry ~ Review

‘Books can save anyone. If they’re the right ones.’ 

Meet Tiny and Nola. Two very different girls with two very different stories who are just trying to find a place to belong. A powerful and compelling novel about friendship, love and acceptance.

Everyone has a story.

Tiny is an eighteen-year-old girl living on the streets in Sydney, running from her small-town past. At a temporary homeless shelter, she meets Nola, a high school student on volunteer placement. Both girls share their love of words through the Hope Lane writing group. Can they share their secrets, too?

Told through the eyes of both Tiny and Nola as they negotiate their way through homelessness, shifting friendships, betrayals, addiction and a little bit of romance, Because of You explores the vastly different coming-of-age stories of two girls who are learning to find their individual strengths

Wow ~ Pip Harry's latest novel Because of You felt real and, by the end, it took my breath away. I read because I love being transported into another time and place, into another persons shoes, and I love being pulled into and swept up into a story. But occasionally, a book will come along that ends up being more than just a good entertaining read, and it leaves me feeling moved. Because of You is one of those books that resonates long after the last page and has transformative power to challenge a readers viewpoint and empathy.

Things to love about Because of You:

  • the budding friendship between Tiny and Nola was so refreshing, tentatively organic and precious. I love how they both made mistakes and needed forgiveness (from others and themselves) and how, despite their different circumstances, they had more in common than they would've first thought. 
  • awesome parents (who are brilliant characters in conjunction with complicated relationships and issues).
  • writing group ~ writing and books and reading and creativity and finding your voice ~ all this is celebrated and adds a fun dynamic with bursts of humour and unexpected treasure
  • some gorgeous, really affecting and powerful snippets of writing from the writing group. I loved the poetry and humour and was absolutely floored by the honest and captivating writing the characters shared. Harry, through the voices of her characters, was able to capture emotion beautifully in so few words <3
  • hidden backstories and surprises, with tender and heartbreaking reveals. Nothing is as black and white as things may first seem.
  • a real mix of unique characters, both teen and adult, to care for ~ all with their own voice and story
  • a really inspirational and smiley climax and resolution ~ which just had me beaming from the inside out

Harry has nailed the art of letting her characters breathe life into the themes so that the message of the novel is fresh and authentic, never wandering into didactic or saccharine territory. Because of You is an absolute gem of a novel ~ hopeful and true, timely and challenging, with a genuine powerhouse message of empathy and resilience. I fell in love with the characters, and will be wholeheartedly recommending it to the teens and adults in my life. 

My reviews for Pip Harry's previous novels:

Because of you @ UQP (incl. Teacher's Notes)

Many thanks to UQP  for my review copy :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Three Fave #LoveOzYA Contemporary 'Feels' Books

Today I'm participating in the #LoveOzYABloggers fortnightly meme. This fortnight's topic is: 'Feels'. (See meme details and how you can participate at the end of the post). 

I spent a good, relaxing while perusing my shelves and noting that pretty much all my Aussie YA books match this fortnights prompt, haha. In the end I picked three faves where my heart totally broke for the characters ~ so much love for these three books!

My Big Birkett by Lisa Shanahan

(my review) ~ My Big Birkett is one of those hilariously comedic novels but with a sweet dose of unexpectedly hard-hitting feels, packaged up in one very cool, bad boy, Raven De Head. I still ache when I think about him and his brothers and the whole De Head family. Excerpt from my review: 

He is one of the coolest fleshed out love interests ever. He is so unpretentious. Somehow, his bad boyness is not at all cliché, but rather heart-wrenchingly honest. I loved the scenes with Raven and the De Head family. The whole De Head family really struck a chord with me. One of those families that have a bad reputation, multiple wrecked cars on the front lawn, a brother in jail and the whole town against them. I actually ached for the boys, so sweet, but all tough exterior. 
The Big Birkett is still one of my all time fave books :)

The Protected by Claire Zorn

The Protected is so tender and captivating. My heart just ached for Hannah, and grew in ache throughout (if that even makes sense, ha) and by the end I was crying actual tears (I rarely cry while reading). My heart was in my throat so many times and I just wanted to reach through into the book and hold Hannah close for a little while. 

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Carly </3  ~ This tough and vulnerable surfer girl ~ and her achey and hopeful story ~ has stayed with me. Raw Blue is one of those books that gives you all the feels ~ rips you up and turns you inside out, plus then some. I was holding my breathe for Carly throughout the whole novel, madly wanting her to be okay.

Which Aussie YA book(s) gave you all the feels?

About the meme

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with News and Events, or submit your own!

You can link your post up here.

Upcoming themes:
August 14: SciFi
August 28: Series