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