Monday, 31 December 2012

On My Favourite 2012 Reads (and more)!

Two more hours and it's the new year and that feels kind of... surreal. 2012 has had its ups and downs but I've discovered some great reads and as far as reading is concerned, it's been an amazing year!

I also completed my goal of reading over 50 books. I read 76 books this year! In the process, I waded through cutesy reads, books that were all right, books that made me cry, broke my heart and made me  laugh till my stomach hurt!

There were also books written way before 2012 that I finally got my hands on and I'm so glad I got to finally read them. (The Study series. Everything Melina Marchetta has ever written).

There were books that took me my surprise and the books that I expected way too much from and ended up disappointing me.

But... back to the 2012 reads I loved. In no particular order,

(containing quotes from the book, excerpts from my review of the book as well as links to goodreads and my full review)

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein [full review]

“It's like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

Every once in a couple of years, I happen to read a book that leaves me filled with awe... reminding of what words can do. Code Name Verity took my breath away with a story that broke my heart. The cover haunts me, now that I am aware of the meaning behind it. I can't forget Verity and Maddie and their friendship that was plain beautiful.

You couldn't make these people up, Elizabeth Wein says in the Author's Debriefing and I couldn't agree more. This book was filled with characters that felt so real... I could see them, hear them and feel the intensity of everything around and about them.

2Wonder by R. J. Palacio [review-to-come]

“I actually like how doctors talk. I like the sound of science. I like how words you don't understand explain things you can't understand.”
This book was simply wonderful! Easily my favourite MG read of all time. I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for Heidi @ Rainy Day Ramblings' heartfelt gushy review!

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green [review-to-come]

“Oh, I wouldn't mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.” 

What can I say? I feel fortunate to have read this book. :')
#undriedtears #awesometasticMCs

4. Defy The Stars by Stephanie Parent [full review]

"I see what Julia's saying," he starts, "but the way Shakespeare writes... Just 'cause a feeling doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it's not right, you know?"

Defy the Stars is an indie gem. I urge you to give it a try, especially if you're fond of modern-day adaptations. I was moved by this beautifully written tale and blown away by how well developed and multi-layered the characters were. I felt one with the pace of the story and when it ended, I couldn't stop myself from rating it on Goodreads right away; the remnants of Julia's last actions still lingering in my mind.

5The Jelly Bean Crisis by Jolene Stockman [full review]

“I’d been doing everything to please everyone else and some imaginary me."

It only takes one look at the totally fun cover of The Jelly Bean Crisis to decide it's just the kind of book you might want to randomly pick up. But reading The Jelly Bean Crisis made me realise that this book was a far cry from the quirky and funny book I thought it would be. Instead, it was scary relatable. I thought the way Poppy did in high school. I think the way Poppy did even now.

6Charlinder's Walk by Alyson Miers [full review]

I started reading Charlinder's Walk at a photocopy shop, read a little on the bus on my way back from my summer internship and most of it at home on particularly sunny days. This book has traveled places and I loved every minute of my journey with it! Charlinder's Walk was an extremely long read for me which made me appreciate the length and breadth of Charlinder's walk even more.

7Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions #1) by Louise Rozett [full review]

“The most acrobatic thing that goes on here is a synchronized hair flip.”

Rose Zarelli, you are my hero. You have ten times the spunk I wish I had in high school.

Confessions of an Angry Girl was an amazing book because it was so raw, so real and made me feel fourteen again; with the angst, tangled emotions and all of those firsts.

8My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick [review-to-come]

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

A contemporary read that thoroughly gripped me. Without doubt an AMAZING coming of age story with a fresh perspective and an interesting cast of characters who slowly wove their way into my heart and tore it apart because they were so... human. The perfect summer read!

9Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas [review-to-come]

Also the most kickass book of 2012! Celaena was not only strong and could hold her own... she was also girly and a bookworm and I loved those sides of her! For some reason... maybe because I read these books back to back, Celaena reminded me a great deal of Yelena from the Study series. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. I had such a great time reading this book!

“I’m not feeling upbeat. Not as upbeat as someone should feel when they are about to collect a $150 refund… [I] try to imagine what I could do with $150. Eat a shitload of mayo, that’s what I could do. I say this outloud… I look left and see that the guy in the car beside me is staring at me. I pretend that I’m humming. Not talking outloud to myself. I nod my head up and down and hum a bit. I think I look unconvincing. This is what my life has become. Pretending to hum at traffic lights on my way to a Miss Brisbane meeting where I want to get $150 to spend on mayo.” -The Girl Most Likely

11. #books-i'll-never-forget

So that was Sykosa, Part I for me: gritty, intense and definitely not a book I'll forget anytime soon! It was so differently written. I wouldn't have expected to fall in love with the writing style but I did. It practically made me get under Sykosa's skin despite getting a dose of the perspectives of the other characters and there were parts that were so lyrical. [full review]

“Outside, the sun shines. Inside, there’s only darkness. The blackness is hard to describe, as it’s more than symptoms. It’s a nothing that becomes everything there is. And what one sees is only a fraction of the trauma inflicted.” -Sykosa, Part I: Junior Year

“I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.” -The Fault in Our Stars

*wipes away a tear*

Happy new year, everybody!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

On... (the bookishness of) my week

I've been very irregular on the blog and miss doing random posts that aren't reviews. So I thought I'd fill you in on some (bookish) randomness!

I spent Thursday going crazy over this book clock:

@ Its Our Studio
Isn't it freakin PERFECT? 

On Friday and Saturday, I reread my favourite Melina Marchetta books ever, Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son.

I love the characters in Francesca so much. They have got to be the most amazing fictional cast ever. One minute, I'd get all teary eyed and fifty or so pages later I'd double over laughing. And there's this innocence about the characters, especially in Saving Francesca, that's so refreshing!

And it looks like there might be a Jimmy Hailler book in the works which makes me so psyched!

I spent Sunday reading Dante's Girl by Courtney Cole. It's one of those like-not-love books. My review of Dante's Girl will be up soon... so more on that later!

I didn't do much on Monday. I noticed that they are way too many books sitting in my Kindle... without being read. Some of them are:

Kissed in Paris and Sleeping with Paris by Juliette Sobanet!

Charming by Susan Kaye Lopez

Guardian by Heather Burch

Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Any thoughts on what I should read next?

Today is Tuesday and I am so HAPPY because I finally decided to buy the first part of Twist Literary's Colebrook Confessions:

Eeeee. I'm 52% in and all of the drama, lies and calculation is making me giddy! I cannot wait to read more. I LOVED the ALIBI series and I'm sure this one will be brilliant too.

And also: my blogoversary came and went on the 20th of November.

It had been an insanely busy week. College had just reopened... so I wasn't in a position to post about it. But I wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to throw some confetti. Because my year in blogging has been so much fun and so satisfying!

I've made some amazing friends, discovered amazing blogs and so. many. incredible books that I wouldn't have heard about otherwise! And as for everyone who's taken the time to follow my blog, read my posts and / comment, you guys are truly and insanely AMAZING (with a capital A) and never fail to make my day 

So... thank you so much! If you have been following my blog via GFC/Linky/e-mail/twitter, do comment on this post with your email address at the bottom... one commentor picked via Random Number Generator will get a surprise e-copy/paperback (: There are no other entries since this is a pretty informal giveaway!

Alright, then. That was my week. What was yours like?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Novel Publicity blog tour stop; Review: Bluff by Lenore Skomal

Publication date: 1st October, 2012
Publisher: Lenore Skomal Press
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: E-copy provided for blog tour
Rating: 4/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

"To the medical world, I was a host body, surviving only to bring a new life into the world. And while I wanted to die more than anything in the world, I never wanted this. No, I never wanted to cease to exist. This was the worst death of all.”

Jude Black lives in that in-between, twilight place teetering on death but clinging to life in order to bring her baby into this world. Only she knows the circumstances surrounding her mysterious fall off the bluff that landed her in the hospital being kept alive by medical intervention. Only she knows who the father of her baby is. In this poignantly crafted literary novel, the mystery unfolds and the suspense builds as the consequences of Jude’s decisions threaten to reveal everyone's deceptions, even her own. Bluff offers a sensitive look at essential questions such as the value of human life, the consciousness of those in a coma and the morality of terminating life support. At the core is the story of a tragically misunderstood woman who finds peace, acceptance, understanding and even love on her deathbed.

Intricate. Compelling. Powerful; three words I'd use to describe Bluff which opens with the words: I was born a weakling.

Bluff weaves together the story of Jude, named after the patron saint of the same name, who is found fallen off a bluff and will indefinitely remain in a "persistent vegetative state". She is also carrying a child whose chances of being delivered without risk are high... further complicating the situation.

How did Jude fall off the bluff? Was it foul play? Was it suicide?

Who is the father of the unborn child? Why was even her best friend, Frances, kept in the dark?

Should Jude be placed on life support indefinitely? Or would it be kinder to let her go once the baby was delivered?

Bluff takes its time to reveal the truth behind what happened in the bluff through the perspectives of Jude as well as several key players in her story: Frances, Frances' husband who never liked Jude, her sister, her family lawyer, the nurse and more. And in the process, the author does not shy away from exploring the complexities in the law, religion, life, drug use and death.

Dear Jude,

You were floating in between life and death and that was precisely the place where you were fully able to accept and understand why things were the way they were. It was painful to watch you take in things from afar... but ironically, this was the time when you connected most with the people around you.

It pained me to see you sad all the time... But with your family history and struggle with your sexuality... I fully understood your depression. It moved me to tears when you were finally on the brink of letting go of all of that sadness and anger. 

Dear Mary Shannon (the nurse),

I marveled at the shades of gray in your personality. You, like most of the key players in the story... were so difficult to hate and like at the same time. You were so... human. It was depressing.

Dear father of the unborn child,

Oh. My. God. You were the twisted revelation I could've lived without. May you... uh, I can't even curse you. It would affect all these other people in your life. Which was one of the things I loathed and admired in Bluff... the tight web of responsibility and carelessness... how one action affected several others with such ease.

Dear Sequel,

I hope there's... more retribution. And redemption. It was hinted that there would be.

The characters in Bluff... they are brilliant. They are complex and difficult and most of the time- they are torn into making difficult decisions. While the story centered around Jude coming to terms with the cause and consequences of her fall... there were also debates on the ethics of so many important issues- related to euthanasia, the Church and medicine, organ donation, and more.

All of the characters were active participants. None of them could deny responsibility. None of their skeletons stayed in their closet. Instead, they crept out eventually... choosing to catch up with them in the heart wrenching yet mind boggling climax. Of course I want to read more about them!

Dear Bluff,

I write this review hoping I can convey the weight, originality, eeriness and sheer brilliance of the premise. Every person's perspective mattered and Jude's ethereal presence was essential to tie everything together... to validate the need to ask all of those questions which the book asked.

You made me think and ponder over every last detail of the plot... to say I was impressed and completely satisfied with the book is an understatement.




Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of Bluff? 

Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Bluff tour page.

Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.

About the author: 

Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She is an award-winning author with the single goal of resonating with others. Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, her catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, 18 books published, a daily blog and weekly newspaper column, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues of the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. She has won many Society of Professional Journalist awards, the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens 2003, and most recently, the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor for “Burnt Toast.,” her first anthology of her award winning humor columns. 

From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, her writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message. Connect with Lenore on her website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Review + Giveaway: Defy The Stars by Stephanie Parent

Publication date: 30th July, 2012
Publisher: Self-published
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: E-copy provided by author (Thank you so much!)
Rating: 5/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.

Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.

Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.

Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.


Julia and Reed.

Modern-day versions of Romeo and Juliet.

This should be easy, you might think. Their fates are locked the minute their eyes meet and they are made to read the parts of Romeo and Juliet in English class.

I felt uneasy as I started reading Defy The Stars, the opening verses setting the tempo to a relationship that was doomed from the start. Julia, after all, is well-off while Reed is from the wrong drug-infested side of town. And we all know how Romeo and Juliet ends.

What was the point, then of falling in love with these characters? 

And yet, when Julia dismissed the conception of love at first sight and Reed quietly justifies it, I realised that Defy The Stars was a modern adaptation in the truest sense. It was multi-layered and more intense than I'd ever expected it to be. 

"I see what Julia's saying," he starts, "but the way Shakespeare writes... Just 'cause a feeling doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it's not right, you know?"

Julia is devoted to playing the piano. She hopes to get into a prestigious music conservatory. Reed is a stoner and branded a slacker whose life will amount to nothing. 

When their paths cross... they instantaneously forget that a life when they got by without really knowing each other even existed.

Their lives are hopelessly intertwined, especially when tragedy strikes and Julia's parents and Reed's brother will not rest until they cut ties with the other.

It's devastating. It crushes them more than they ever thought it would.

This is the part when I felt swayed by the rhythm... carried away by the remorse and arousal and urgency and enamored with their story. This is the part when Defy the Stars felt like more than just another Romeo and Juliet adaptation and I was swept away by the complexity of the tale and the parallels drawn from the classic. 

The dirty drug world, the hauntingly beautiful piano pieces played by Julia and the intensity of Reed's gaze... their histories, their relationship outside each other and the melodies which soar and then are tainted by melancholy. Reed's guitar riffs, the hopelessness and the urgency to overcome it...

The free-verse brought each and every aspect of this book alive until I could feel myself in Julia's skin, struggling to hit the right note and make sense of her relationship with Reed. Her fingers ran across the keys, transcending technique until each note was entrenched with feeling. I felt her desperation to make their relationship work against all odds as her heart overpowered her mind.

And the ending truly blew me away... In my opinion, it couldn't have been more true to how things would've panned out for Romeo and Juliet in the current decade. It was utterly devastating yet poignant. And unlike the classic, I could come to terms with it.

Defy the Stars is an indie gem. I urge you to give it a try, especially if you're fond of modern-day adaptations. I was moved by this beautifully written tale and blown away by how well developed and multi-layered the characters were. I felt one with the pace of the story and when it ended, I couldn't stop myself from rating it on Goodreads right away; the remnants of Julia's last actions still lingering in my mind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

And that's not all! The author, Stephanie Parent, has been generous enough to donate an e-copy of DEFY THE STARS for giveaway (Thank you so much!). I guarantee you'll love this book... so do enter for the chance to win an e-copy :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Publication date: 13th November, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown        from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

I knew I was meant to read Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill the minute I saw it on Goodreads. Everything about it sounded so CUTE: the cover, the plot and the characters... How can you not want to read about a possible love-hate relationship, a mystery man and childhood crush, all on a school trip to London? Especially when it's all happening to Julia, the most unlikely candidate for boy drama!

Julia, an accident-prone word lover and stringent follower of rules, is pretty much on her own on her school trip to London. Her best friend, Phoebe, couldn't make it to the trip and the rest of her classmates on the trip are not her type at all. They spend most of their "cultural hours" shopping than doing anything else. When Julia is partnered with Jason, the class clown, she's sure Jason is going to ruin the trip for her... as he's the kind of person who manages to turn everything into a joke. 

But surprise, surprise... there's so much more to Jason, who after way too many deals, promises to help Julia find the identity of the person who's been sending her romantic texts. There's secret identities, secret admirers and numerous mishaps gone right in this book as Julia realises that her search for her MTB (meant-to-be) ended sooner than she thought it did. 

Being an accident-prone word lover who takes too few risks myself, I enjoyed living vicariously through Julia as she experiences the adventure of a lifetime! There no one who could've shaken her up and gotten her to live more than Jason Lippincott (how I love that name!) who I looved from their very first interaction at the beginning of the trip. I've become seriously immune to bad boys in Young Adult fiction, making Jason's goofy I-don't-even-take-myself-seriously charm even more authentic and swoon-worthy!  

There's also so much of LONDON in this book... whether it's the street culture, quest for the perfect fish 'n chips, Beatles covers and the Stratford-upon-Avon trip... I loved how I felt just a page away from experiencing everything.

Sure, there was a point in the book when it felt like there were way too many boys in Julia's life and the boy-related confusion got a bit too much, especially when Julia's childhood crush, Max Bixford, makes an appearance... but the issue didn't stick for long. It was just way too much fun... there was hardly a character I didn't like (though Max Bixford comes close)! Even Mrs. Tennison, who was in charge of the trip and is constantly confiscating phones and handing out punishment essays, was too amusing to be unlikable. And what more, there's a twist at the end that genuinely took me by surprise!

If you haven't found a fun, goofy, sweet and genuinely cutesy read since Anna and the French Kiss (I know I haven't), you have got to read Meant to Be. It's everything the blurb promises to be and more! 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: The Girl Most Likely (Rachel Hill #2) by Rebecca Sparrow

"When you were 17, what did you think your life would be like when you hit 27?"

At 17, Rachel Hill was the girl most likely to succeed. At 27, with an Honours degree and a career as a travel writer, she wonders if marriage is the only thing missing from this perfect trifecta. But one disastrous life decision changes everything. Suddenly she is living back at home in her childhood bedroom - a room still celebrating 1987.  She's also working as a nanny for a surly six-year-old, proof-reading erotic fiction and crucifying movie themes on the piano. With Su-su-sudio in the cassette deck, Rachel tumbles head first into a quarter-life crisis. As she revisits her idea of perfection, she finds that happiness is living the life you want to live, rather than the one you're expected to.
It's been a while since I've been regular on the blog and I really, really miss it. I've been reading as much as I did all year... nothing can stop me from pouncing on a book and I've read some truly amazing books in the past month. It's been the kind of month when I've had days when I have been sleeping a lot (the so-called study holidays) and these other days when there are bags under my eyes and I would nod off if it weren't for the endless supply of Coca Cola and Dairy Milk (end-Semester exam week).

I curled up with The Girl Most Likely by Rebecca Sparrow on a rainy day, wanting, more than anything, to take a break from real life. I couldn't have asked for a better comfort read. I had already met seventeen year old Rachel Hill in The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay (my review) (can you believe that TYNGCTS was written after The Girl Most Likely? Meaning, technically, I'd read this one out of order) almost a year back. Which made it hard to believe twenty-seven-year-old-Rachel's state of affairs.

Twenty-seven-year-old Rachel Hill is seventeen year old Prefect Rachel gone wrong. A failed marriage causes her to spiral out of control as she quits her job as an editor in a prestigious travel magazine, is house sitting for her parents and spends her days eating too many cartons of Froot Loops while babysitting a misunderstood six year old. Her desperate attempts to regain control over her life and retain perfection go hilariously wrong... in a foot-in-the-mouth, self esteem depending on her ability to master a movie theme song on the piano kind of way. And it feels like everything is falling apart...

...when really, it isn't.

And that, really, is the core of why I loved The Girl Most Likely so much.

Rachel Hill is all grown up... there is no doubt about that. Of course it was simpler when she was seventeen  year old Rachel, the Girl Most Likely to Succeed. And when her marriage that her parents had no idea about fails, she can automatically feel herself spiraling out of control... Girls like her weren't meant to be living at their parent's house and handling a divorce. Girls like her aren't supposed to veg out in front of the television, struggling to get through each day. She sees herself as a failure through her seventeen year old self's eyes and that itself feels like the biggest failure of all.

But as she gets acquainted with Matt, her neighbour who gives her piano lessons and her best friend Zoe is not one to leave her alone... Rachel realises that maybe it's not all about picture perfection. Maybe perfection is overrated. And the lengths at which the author goes to drive this point home makes it an amazing read.

I haven't laughed or cried as much in ages as I did while reading this book. Aside from learning so much from Rachel's quarter-life crisis... I loved how her journey felt so genuine, so heart wrenching that if I could, I would've wanted to be there for her. The fact that I read The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay first, in which Rachel is all goody goody yet endearing, made me feel particularly empathetic and like I had truly known her for a long time.

Zoe Budd, Rachel's best friend, is as hilarious as she was in TYNMGCTS. I also think there's more to her in this book and I feel like overall, I know her better. Matt, the sexy neighbour next door, could not endear himself more to me and Alex, the six year old Rachel babysits, was tough and interesting. I could understand how Rachel wanted Alex to like her... especially when Alex made it really difficult.

This is the perfect book to read if you are going through any sort of a meltdown or even if you just want to have some fun. You're going to laugh your heart out, introspect and sob like a baby before bursting into helpless giggles again. You're not going to want to leave these characters... as they are made of awesome. What can I say... like TYNMGCTS, The Girl Most Likely gave me the warm-fuzzies and urged me to look beyond perfection and just enjoy the journey!

Final note: Another Aussie gem that was plain b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! I'd strongly advise reading The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay before this one, though!
Publication date: 1st March, 2003
Publisher: University of Queensland Press, Australia
Links: Amazon| Goodreads | The Book Depository
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Blog tour: Excerpt and giveaway; ALIBI: The Complete Series

Click on the banner to check out the other tour stops!
Publication date: 29th February, 2012
Publisher: Twist Literary
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars [My review]
From goodreads
Abigail Shelton is dead.

Spring Valley's golden girl is found floating face-down in her boyfriend’s pool, hands bound behind her back, head bleeding, drugs and alcohol in her system. Her friends are the only suspects – and they all have reasons to want her dead. Everyone has an alibi, but no one is innocent. 
ALIBI is a 4-part young adult e-book series. Each one-hundred page installment reveals the perspective of a different character: the secret love, the nemesis, the boyfriend, the best friend. As their tales unfold, we learn that Abby is not as perfect as everyone believes, but she’s not the only one with secrets to hide. This page-turning tale of suspense, betrayal, murder, and lust will keep fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars up and reading well past curfew.
If you haven't picked up the ALIBI series yet... seriously, what are you waiting for? It's a fun, suspenseful, sexy and amazingly crafted series that you're not going to want to put down that easily! As a part of the ALIBI blog tour, I'm excited to feature an excerpt from Volume IV of the ALIBI series, which is in Rowan's perspective.

My thoughts about Rowan, as stated in my ALIBI: The Complete Series review:

Oh my god, Rowan. I hated this girl. I hated her in the other volumes and hated her even more when we were shown the events from her perspective. I got to know so much more about the other characters while seeing the events through Rowan's eyes. For one thing, there were parts conveniently omitted by one of the characters in the initial parts and Rowan's perspective made me get the full picture about this person.

Excerpt: Rowan 

Until Charles came along, all of high school, most especially the boys who went there, were well deserving of the intense disdain Rowan harbored for them. But on the first day of school there was a new student, a tall, disarming Australian who had a locker next to hers. He reached over her shoulder and pulled one of her books from her locker, while Rowan stood there dumbfounded by his boldness and his intense blue eyes.

“Social Networking and Sociology,” he read from the cover in his delectable accent. “That’s an interesting topic.”

Rowan could only stare. He was startlingly handsome. She wasn’t sure he was actually talking to her. He was flipping through the book, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Yes, it’s really good,” she said quietly, her voice a little strangled by her surprise. “I’m reading it for a project I’m working on.”

“Is that a fact?” he said, seeming to be genuinely interested.

“Yeah, a new kind of social network,” she said cagily.

“What’s new about it?”

“Well, just because our online society affords us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, even create new identities from thin air, that’s no reason why anyone should be able to pass that personality off as their ‘true’ self,” she said with air quotes. She’d never used air quotes before.

“Yeah,” he said. “Seriously, forget Facebook. Someone should invent a social networking site that makes it next to impossible for anyone to lie about themselves. Warts and all. That’s how it should be.”

“Exactly,” she said. “I’m actually working on an algorithm…”

The bell announcing the next class pealed down the hall, making her jump.

“I’m Charles, by the way.” He stuck out his big hand. “Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

“Rowan,” she said, shaking his hand and staring at him.

“Brilliant to meet you, Rowan,” he said with a big beautiful grin. “See you in a bit.” Then he jogged away from her down the hall, disappearing into a sea of kids. She just stood there, immobilized by the strange giddiness that bubbled inside her. The school year was off to an interesting start.

She rushed to her locker between classes, worried that she’d miss him. She tried to resist the strange sense of urgency she felt about Charles, but every time she approached their lockers and saw him there, she could feel the thump of her heart under her sternum.

“So,” she asked casually between fourth and fifth periods, “Did Mr. Wayne give his usual lecture about the overdependence on Freudian psychology?”

“Christ,” Charles said, giving her a gorgeous crooked grin and turning his beautiful blue eyes on her. “That man has an axe to grind with the good Doctor Freud, doesn’t he?”

Rowan laughed, feeling her face pull open with a smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled like that. Maybe never. “Right? I mean, I do tend to favor Jung, but you can’t just totally discount Freud’s contributions to the development of modern psychology,” she said, pulling her statistics book from her locker.

“Jung’s all right,” he said. “I’ve just always had a problem buying the whole archetype construct, you know? Like it smacks of predetermination, which I just can’t get on board with.”

The bell announcing the next class period shrieked overhead. Charles leaned toward her and grinned again.

“To be continued, love,” he said with a wink. Then he was gone. Rowan stood at her locker, a dopey grin on her face. Love. She knew it was nothing more than a colloquialism. But he said love.

Can I say swoon along with Rowan?

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Something Wicked Comes stop [Review, guest post and giveaway]: The Forever Girl Series, Vol. I: Sophia's Journey (Volume 1) by Rebecca Hamilton

I am beyond excited to be a part of Something Wicked Comes, a month long blog event hosted by Heidi @ Rainy Day Ramblings and Lila @ Babbling About Books! As a part of the hop, I am thrilled to post my review of The Forever Girl: Sophia's Journey (Volume 1), an AMAZING paranormal romance that made a pretty awesome Halloween read along with a guest post by the author, Rebecca Hamilton and giveaway of one paperback and FIVE e-copies of The Forever Girl!


Hi everyone! I’m Rebecca Hamilton, and I’m super excited that Pooja invited me over to his blog this Halloween for a guest post! I wasn’t sure what to blog about, but seeing as I’m in a nostalgic mood as I sit down to write this, I’ve decided to share the things I think no one should miss on Halloween.

Pumpkin Picking/Carving

If you’ve never gone pumpkin picking before, well, what rock are you living under? I think this is one of those festivities that not enough people participate in. Really, WHEN ELSE can do this? I guess it seems like a lot of work . . . finding a pumpkin patch, picking out a pumpkin, taking it home to gut it and carve it . . . but it’s an experience! And it’s something you only get to do once a year. Well, I suppose you could do it more often, but it’s all in the spirit of the holiday. Don’t miss out. In fact, if you do decide to carve a pumpkin this year, I hope you’ll email me a picture (theinkmuse [at] gmail [dot] com). I’ll feature it on my blog!

Halloween-themed Food

Candy is a given, off course. You even have your Halloween staples, like candy corn (when ELSE do you eat candy corn). And if you’re having a party, maybe you buy a Frankenstein mug, fill it with candy corn, and have all your party guests guess how many pieces of candy corn are in the mug. Winner gets the candy—and the mug! But there’s a lot of other cool Halloween-themed foods out there, and I recommend not settling for candy.

Why not have BRAINS for dinner? (Spaghetti!) Or prepare your guests some SLIME punch! If you’re feeling really festive, use a witch’s cauldron as a serving bowl! Or if you have kids, check out one of the billion articles on the Internet with fun Halloween recipe and treat ideas! I’ll even make it easy for ya, and get you started. Check these out!

The bottom line is, don’t miss out on the chance to be festive with your food! Find the perfect recipes and indulge!

Halloween Houses and Haunted Hayrides

When I was growing up, one of the BEST parts of Halloween was the haunted hayrides and haunted houses. But no one said adults can’t enjoy the same kind of activities, with or without kids. Halloween only comes once a year. Do a little research and find out what is available near you! If you live near any amusement parks, they might have some kind of Fright Fest for you to attend. But often there are other activities that are local as well to participate in. If you aren’t sure how to look these things up, simple type in “Haunted House (your zip code)” or “Haunted Hayride (your zip code)” and you should be able to find something local to you. I personally prefer the Haunted Hayrides because there is nothing more enjoyable than experiencing the outdoors in the fall!

Scary Movies!

If you’re a forward thinker, you rented all your favorite horror movies a week ahead of time, or already own them all! But there’s always television freebies. You simply CAN’T have Halloween without scary movies! If you’re the type to like to stay in instead of go out, why not have a horror movie marathon?

And if you’re a book nerd like me, looking for some scary books to get lost in this holiday, I’ve put together a small recommendation list for you!

Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door

R.P. Krauls Mirrors of Anguish

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box

So, what are your plans this Halloween? Do you have a list of must see Halloween movies?

Thank you so much for the awesometastic guest post, Rebecca! I'm stoked for Halloween! :)

Publication date: 26th January, 2012
Publisher: Immortal Ink Publishing
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: e-copy obtained from author
Rating: 4/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

Sophia's family has skeletons, but they aren't in their graves.

At twenty-two, practicing Wiccan Sophia Parsons is scratching out a living waiting tables in her Rocky Mountain hometown, a pariah after a string of unsolved murders with only one thing in common: her.

Sophia can imagine lots of ways to improve her life, but she'd settle for just getting rid of the buzzing noise in her head. When the spell she casts goes wrong, the static turns into voices. Her personal demons get company, and the newcomers are dangerous.

One of them is a man named Charles, who Sophia falls for despite her better judgment. He has connections that might help her unveil the mystery surrounding her ancestor's hanging, but she gets more than she bargains for when she finally decides to trust him.

Survival in his world, she learns, means not asking questions and staying out of the immortal council's way. It's a line she crossed long ago. If Sophia wants to survive the council and save the people she loves, she must accept who she is, perform dark magic, and fight to the death for her freedom.

The Forever Girl is a full-length Paranormal Fantasy novel that will appeal to lovers of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, witches, vampires, ghosts, paranormal mystery, and paranormal horror.
Halloween is round the corner and I cannot think of a better paranormal romance to curl up with than The Forever Girl. Gorgeously written, with great attention to detail and a well thought out backstory- I felt a part of Sophia's journey and couldn't put it down till I hit the last page. It's creepy, fun and the story behind the title that is revealed piece by piece blew me away.

Sophia, a girl of Wiccan faith, is stuck in a town she wants to escape, dealing with her bipolar mother who's off her meds and heavily influenced by their neighbour, Mrs. Franklin, who will not rest until Sophia sells her ancestral property to the Church for a pittance. The buzzing in her head has now morphed into a scramble of voices, possibly enhanced by the positive energy ritual she had performed. A night out at Club Flesh with her friend Ivory only strengthens her conviction that there is something more to her not-so-coincidental presence in the midst of a killing years ago, documents left by her grandfather and the creatures who are now after her.

I loved how the author gives us a clear, clean account of the Wiccan faith; dispelling all the myths associated with it. The paranormal creatures and their origins in the world created by Hamilton are also well fleshed out. She takes her time to lay out all the pieces in the puzzle in front of us; making us truly feel a part of Sophia's journey. The first paragraph alone gave me the chills and from then on, I was hooked.

Charles, Sophia's paranormal love interest, also immediately endeared to me. Their relationship made sense and while it followed a pattern reminiscent of Twilight, Charles and Sophia approach the dilemmas in their relationship way more logically and as for their chemistry... let's just say mind blowing is an understatement! Some quotes that made me laugh out loud:

“I must be pretty special to have followed you here but arrived first.”

"You're not so interesting that I came to watch you sleep, darlin'."

The Forever Girl  is an amazing take on all things paranormal; set in a world with vampires, shape shifters, witches and fire elementals with back-story that incorporates the Salem witch trials. It is an intricately woven and well written gothic romance of obsession, creation and purpose that transcended generations; filled with twists and turns that took me by surprise! Definitely a great Halloween read. I cannot wait to read the second book in the series!

Rating: 4/5 stars

And do not forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy or one of five ecopies of The Forever Girl, Vol 1 (Thank you so much, Rebecca, for donating the copies for giveaway!):

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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

Publication date: 16th October, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

When everyone thinks you’re dead, how do you start your life over again?

Emma Tupper, a young lawyer with a bright future, sets out on a journey after her mother’s death: to Africa, a place her mother always wanted to visit. But her mother’s dying gift has unexpected consequences. Emma falls ill during the trip and is just recovering when a massive earthquake hits, turning her one-month vacation into a six-month ordeal.

When Emma returns home, she’s shocked to find that her friends and colleagues believed she was dead, that her apartment has been rented to a stranger and that her life has gone on without her. Can Emma pick up where she left off? Should she? As Emma struggles to recreate her old life, everyone around her thinks she should change – her job, her relationships, and even herself. But does she really want to sacrifice everything she’s working so hard to gain?
Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie puts its central character, Emma Tupper, in a situation far more horrific than a near-death experience. Emma returns from Africa five months later than she should have... after falling sick and surviving an earthquake only to find out that she had been presumed dead. Her apartment has been rented to a stranger, her bank account has been frozen, her position at work has been taken over by her arch nemesis and her boyfriend has moved on; having dealt with her supposed passing on.What do you do when you're pushed back into a life where everyone has moved on without you?

Emma realises that maybe fate has presented her with a fairly twisted way of starting afresh. Now she's starting at the very bottom of the law firm she was about to be made partner in, rooming with the man living in her apartment who has scars of his own and questioning the aspects of her life that she previously took for granted; making her reevaluate herself and the relationships forged around her.

As someone who has loved every Catherine McKenzie book she's read, I was itching to read Forgotten since the day I read about the premise. While it didn't fall short of my expectations, I didn't enjoy it as much as Spin and Arranged. It seemed to lack the spunk and spice I found in McKenzie's previous books though as the story progressed, I enjoyed the understated way in which the conflicts were dealt with.

Emma is smart and probably one of my favourite lawyer characters ever... I loved that she loved her job; heavy workload and all. This was also one of the few books in which I actually looked forward to the flashbacks that shed light on Emma's African vacation that changed her life. With Catherine McKenzie's trademark witty and fun writing style, this book was a poignant and compelling read. A bit of a letdown compared to McKenzie's other books but can nevertheless be picked up based on the premise and author's breezy writing style alone.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Monday, 8 October 2012

Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Publication date: 14th August, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
 Um, this book... just wasn't for me.

I hate starting my review on such a note but it just wasn't. It wasn't like I had ridiculously high expectations for Beautiful Disaster or anything. I've been told that it's quite the guilty pleasure. But I wasn't looking for more than a college romance I could escape into. I found the university setting, instead of the usual high school setting, pretty refreshing. And yes, the chemistry between the characters was mind blowing. There were times when I was chortling and at other times, completely taken in by the emotional roller coaster that was Abby and Travis's relationship.

But half way into the book, I was just... bored.

I started rolling my eyes at almost every plot device; from the bet to Vegas to the fiery climax.

And eventually, I got really annoyed.

Abby and Travis are complete opposites. Abby is projected as the prototype of a "good girl" while Travis is a mountain of issues vented out in a floating fight ring through which he earns money to pay for his tuition. But at times, I didn't think Abby and Travis were all that different at all. Travis may be a walking One Night Stand but Abby had an equal amount of issues with commitment. I cringed every time she led Parker -a privileged boy who had the hots for Abby as well- on.

Abby, despite her past and fears, didn't have to go hot and cold with Travis either. It broke my heart every time Abby switched gears in their relationship without any prior warning. It didn't help that all the "obstacles" in Abby and Travis's relationship felt cliched and manufactured.

Yes, Beautiful Disaster is well written and nothing more or less than what it promises to be: a guilty pleasure. The secondary characters aren't all that bad. I really liked Abby's best friend, America. But I couldn't stomach the main character and illogical twists and turns in the plot.

Abby and Travis's story was more of a "disaster" than a beautiful disaster for me: filled with cliches and well, Abby.  I was in fundamental disagreement with almost every decision she made throughout the book. If you're looking for a sexy drama-filled romance set in college, Beautiful Disaster might be for you. It's just not something I loved or would personally reccomend.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Friday, 28 September 2012

Review: So Into You by Cecilia Gray [AToMR blog tour stop]

Publication date: 15th July, 2012
Publisher: The Alpha Division, LLC
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: An e-copy provided for book tour
Rating: 3.5/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

Modern retelling/based on Sense & Sensibility.
The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is guys. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And they're about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…

Meet sweet and sensible Ellie who hasn’t met a problem her mom’s yoga mantras can’t fix. But when her parents threaten to pull her from the Academy just as her flirtation with the cutest boy in school heats up, will Ellie be able to keep her cool?
So Into You is the second installment of the fun-filled and heartwarming Jane Austen Academy series. While Fall For You, Book One, was a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, So Into You is based on Sense and Sensibility. I haven't read Austen's Sense and Sensibility before, so I probably missed out on the references and parallels to the classic. Nevertheless, there were all these nods to Jane Austen novels in general and characters like 'Knight' whose first encounter with Emma, Ellie's friend, gave me the goosebumps!

This is perfect for contemporary YA lovers who are also charmed by anything Austenacious. In So Into You, Ellie is saddened by the news that this might be her last term at Jasta while Edward, the sweet guy she is falling for, keeps giving her mixed signals. Lizzie seemed sidetracked and ready to put off fighting against the name-change of the school- what's with that? And then there's Emma, who seems to think she's 'with' Wickam.

Like in Fall For You, I LOVED the atmosphere of Jane Austen Academy. It seems like a warm and amazing place where everybody is encouraged to be themselves. I enjoyed delving into Ellie's story, especially when sweet and kind of dorkily funny Edward appealed to me way more than Dante did. It was impossible not to swoon and sigh and yell, WHY at points of their story. I also loved the dynamics among the girls, Ellie, Emma, Lizzie and Anne, and their ritual of climbing a tree and screaming We Will Be Heard!

This series definitely falls into the 'comfort reads' category for me. It's smart, fun and hands-down the quirkiest of  Jane Austen adaptations!

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

About the author

Cecilia Gray lives in Oakland where she reads, writes and breaks for food. She also pens her biographies in the third person. Like this. As if to trick you into thinking someone else wrote it because she is important. Alas, this is not the case.

Cecilia has been praised for “instilling a warmth and weight into her characters” (Romancing The Book Reviews) and her books have been praised for being “well-written, original, realistic and witty” (Quills & Zebras Reviews).

Her latest release, FALL FOR YOU, the first in a series of young-adult contemporary Jane Austen retellings received a starred Kirkus review and was praised for being a “unique twist on a classic” and offering “a compelling action of action, drama and love.”

She’s rather enamored of being contacted by readers and hopes you’ll oblige.

On an unrelated note (ie, on my absence): This year has been way more hectic that I would've ever anticipated. I will be sure to elaborate on it later. Hope you understand xx

Friday, 14 September 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #9: Hyped books

 Feature and Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

Question of the week: What hyped up book do you think was not worth all the talk?

First of all, hi everybody! *waves* It's been quite a while but I will be sorting out my irregular blog schedule soon. To say I'm missing the blogosphere is an understatement!

For me, one of the hyped books that definitely wasn't worth the um, hype was,

The Selection by Kiera Cass

I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters with the exception of the America's (the main character) sister. Another book that did not live up to its hype:

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

I get why this book was a guilty pleasure for so many people but somehow, I couldn't stop rolling my eyes at the various situations Travis and Abby found themselves in... though I must admit, some aspects of the book were engrossing.

Have a great weekend! Happy reading, everybody! <3 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions #1) by Louise Rozett

Publication date: 28th August, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Links: Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/ 5 stars
[from goodreads]

Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make… 1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.
(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)
Confessions of an Angry Girl made my week! Rose Zarelli, you are my hero. You have ten times the spunk I wish I had in high school.

Rose doesn't have it easy. She's had the worst summer of her life: her dad was killed while working as a contractor in Iraq and now she is starting off her freshman year at Union High being subject to silence from her mother and sympathetic looks from everyone else. To top it all, her best friend Tracy is busy climbing the social ladder and lately, Rose can't help but wonder how they were ever friends in the first place.

With attention from a guy Rose has been crushing on since forever and his girlfriend out for her blood, Rose's freshman year is a mix of highs and lows. The highs make her heart race while the lows make her want to explode into multiple rage attacks. Confessions of an Angry Girl was an amazing book because it was so raw, so real and made me feel fourteen again; with the angst, tangled emotions and all of those firsts.

It was easy to relate to Rose. She was a smart and nice kid who was going through a rough time. She's a confused mess as the people she cares for abandon her without warning and she finds herself all alone... but for Jamie Forta.

I was so intrigued by Jamie who is much older than Rose and seemed too cool for the usual high school drama. I will be interested to see more of him in the next book but I must say Robert, The Other Guy in the  Possibly-Future-Love-Triangle was so endearing. He was so SWEET and um, based on how Rose treats him, way too good for her.

But Rose is still one of the more level headed fourteen year olds I've read about... which is great. I'd love to read more about her. It's not easy being anyone in high school; this was evident as Rose feels constantly shunned, even when she's doing the right thing. What is right is not necessarily popular and what is popular, Rose wants nothing to do with (again, so refreshing).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The fun Gossip Girl references, vivid picture of what it's like being a teen today (they seem to grow up so fast; faster than we ever did) and the sensitive way in which various issues were dealt with has me thoroughly invested in this series already. Take care, Rose. See you soon?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars