Saturday, 13 January 2018

Review :: The Last Days of Us :: Beck Nicholas

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had been lucky enough to win a couple of books on social media, including winning 7 copies (!!!) of the contemporary #LoveOzYA novel  The Last Days of Us (by Beck Nicholas) to share with my book club (thanks Harlequin Books!).

Six months ago, Zoey’s life went off the rails. After the tragic loss of her brother, she partied her way to oblivion, estranged her best friend, Cass, and pushed away her now ex, Finn. But when her destructive behaviour reaches dangerous heights, Zoey realises she needs to pull herself together and get her old life back, including her ex. There’s just one complication: Finn is now dating Cass.

Now, it’s the last week of summer and Zoey, Cass and Finn are setting out on the road trip of a lifetime to see their favourite musician, Gray, perform live, joined by Finn’s infuriatingly attractive bad-boy cousin Luc and his vibrant younger sister Jolie. Zoey thinks this is her chance to put things to rights and convince Finn they should get back together. But she wasn’t counting on her friends’ lingering resentment, Luc’s disarming sincerity, and Jolie’s infectious love for life to turn her plans upside down.

This is a sweet, fun story about finding yourself (or at least learning where to start looking!), with a summery vibe. Don't let this fool you though - there are some really heavy issues in here too.
In a way, this book is really about grief - and how people process it at a time when they aren't even really sure who they are (or want to be).

I thought the characters were really well written - I liked that they were all flawed in their ways, but also all trying to be better and so not unlikeable. The ensemble cast also allows us to see that different people deal with challenges in different ways - I love this in YA, since I think it is really important for young people (and everyone, really!) to learn that there is no one right way to react to a particular situation because we are all different.

Given the themes of loss explored in the book, this got pretty emotional in bits. I found some of these heavier parts really moving - partly because the characters were written in a way that I felt a connection with, or at the very least sympathy for, them. I'm not going to lie - there were tears!

Because of the way grief and loss are explored in this book, its one where I'd recommend some further research before reading if you have any concerns about triggering content.

Also, I love this cover!

I gave this one 4 stars

Bron xo

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Sunday Stack :: January TBR

I've been meaning all week to post about my January 'to be read'/reading goals - and my goals for 2018 in general - but it's been trickier than I expected! 
I've been a bit swept up in the excitement of new release lists and reading challenges - so many amazing reading challenges! To be honest, I've found myself a bit overwhelmed by the feeling that in order to participate in the reading challenges I'd like to do in 2018, I'm already IN THE FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY putting things off all the way to 2019! *Insert screaming face emoji here!*

There are soooo many cool challenges, and it clearly really feeds into my 'to many books, too little time ' anxiety. I'm always particulary interested in the ones that challenge me to increase my reading diversity, and pick up things I usually wouldn't. 
Here are just a couple that I thought looked especially good...


So this challenge actually took place in December, when I was up to my eyeballs in Christmassy reads. But I'd love to see how I go ticking off these categories as I read in 2018, especially since I'm planning to focus on #loveozya this year.

Now, if I were to participate in all of those challenges, I'd be looking at 50 books at least (in fact, the Aus YA bloggers challenge is 4 books each month, so that's nearly 50 on its own!) - add in a couple of book club reads, and some review books, and I'm sure you can see how it's a bit overwhelming haha

So, here's my actual plan for 2018:

I'm doing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for real. In 2017 I started a book club with a bunch of my colleagues, based around Read Harder and it was so much fun. We didn't read the same books at the same time, but we're all working towards completing the challenfe, so it was fun to discuss the tasks and recommend books to eachother. 

I really want to read more local authors this year, so I'm planning to answer as many tasks as possible with Aussie books. And to boost my Australian reading, I'm also going to try and meet as many of the Aussies Rule Reading Challenges as possible - especially the indigenous prompts, which are a big gap in my reading usually.

The remainder of the challenges I'm planning to dip in and out of a bit. In terms of the Aus YA bloggers challenge, I'll probably try to read something for the #loveozya task for each month. Hopefully this will still leave me enough space to read a bit more according to how I'm feeling, and also to get through some of the unread books on my shelves (including some I'd like to do re-reads of the previous books in the series for.

With all of that in mind (and yes, I am aware I'm probably overthinking it haha) here is my TBR for the rest of January (why do I feel like January is almost over already?!).

This is a new release YA sci-fi novel, which was sent to me for review by the lovely people at Harlequin Books Australia. It is being released in January - the ARC says the 11th, but I feel like it might be the 16th. In any case, keep an eye out for a review soon, because I finished it today (or pop over to goodreads for a sneak preview!)

Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3)
I've already read Raelia (book 2 in the Medoran Chronicles) this month, and want to read Draekora so I'm ready for Graevale in February (I raved about this series here if you'd like to know more).

I don't read a lot of thrillers, but I won this review copy in a giveaway from Dymocks and it is getting so much buzz that I'm keen to read it before I hear too many opinions! It is also new out this month.

Frankenstein and Rebecca
There really isn't much to say about these two! I'm reading them for the (fairly casual) book club I have with my bff. We are trying to read books by women, and to include at least some classics. Rebecca was on our list for most of last year, after we both loved My Cousin Rachel. And Frankenstein seemed like a good one to read this month, when it's celebrating its 200th birthday.  Also, this will be my book for the Read Harder Challenge task 3. A classic of genre fiction.

So, that's my January! To be honest, I'm hoping to get to a few more books than these - I am having a week off work in the middle of the month - there are a couple of things on my Kindle I'd love to get to.

I'd also love to hear about your reading plans for January, or your reading goals/philosophy for 2018 (if you're an overthinker like me!) 

Xo Bron

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My 5-star reads of 2017

I wasn't really planning on doing a 'my top 10 books of 2017' or whatever, but I was having a play with the goodreads 'your year in books' and was surprised by how many books I gave five-star reviews to last year, so I thought I'd share them here. Interestingly, these aren't necessarily the books I would choose if I was to pick my 10 best/favourite books from last year looking back from now.

This was my book of the year - the Most Important book I read in 2017, and the number one book I would make everyone read if I could. Maxine Beneba Clarke has an amazing way of writing about terrible issues in a really beautiful way - reading this I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt ashamed, I felt like I might vomit, but I enjoyed it completely.  

I was surprised at how much adored this book! It was my favourite 'grown up' fiction (I guess it's literary fiction?) of 2017. I am just really into books that tell women's stories at the moment. I wrote a review about this one here. Since reading it I have bought myself a paperback copy (I had an eBook for review) and 3 copies for friends, plus my copy is permanently out on loan. 

This anthology of #LoveOzYA short stories was my favourite YA read for the year. I've mentioned it a couple of times here already, I think, but one of the things I loved was the breadth of kinds of stories included - there really is something for everyone in here, and I have books from everysingle one of these authors on my 2018 the list. This book also gave me one of my favourite bookish experiences of the year, when I got up at crazy o'clock to catch the bus to Sydney for the All Day YA event (you can read more about that here). 

This was my first time reading Liane Moriarty and I loved her writing - the voices sounded really authentic (it often felt like listening to my friends talk about their own or other people's children!) and I enjoyed the twist. I watched the tv series, but didn't enjoy it as much, and am sceptical about there being a second season planned.

This was fierce and funny and feministy. I loved the sense of humour it brought to super hero tropes, while still tackling issues about self and difference. I'm hoping to catch up on more of Kamala Khan's adventures this year.

I hadn't read any Helen Garner before this, and her beautiful writing and sharp wit has me keen to try more! I'm open to recommendations of where to go next!

Another first experience with a widely loved author. I read this before going to see the movie (and, again, thought the book was so much better!). Check out more of my thoughts on this one in this post.

This book is completely adorable and fun, and I can't wait to read Sandhya Menon's next book - From Twinkle with Love - later this year. You can read my review of Dimple and Rishi here.

This book was pure space adventure fun, and that ending gave me my biggest book hangover of 2017! It was also brilliant meeting the authors and hearing them talk about the process of writing and writing together.

Empire of Dust is book 2 in the Blood of Gods and Royals series, and was my biggest bookish surprise of 2017 - I didn't expect to love this series so much, and I'm not sure I can put my finger on why! I wrote up a review of the series so far here, and I can't wait to get into the next book!

So those were the 10 books I fave 5-star ratings to last year. I'm excited to seeing how many I have in 2018!
Xo Bron

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Sunday stack :: post-Christmas book haul

My final post for 2017 is a book stack! I have to admit, I love doing these! Books (like craft supplies) often live in stacks around my home - where I pulled some off the shelf to loan someone, or put together a TBR, or even just because the covers/spines look good together! So it is really fun to share them here, and it's something I'm hoping to do more in 2018.

Anyhow, now to the books...

Like the title says, these are all books that have come into my possession since Christmas (I haven't shared the ones I received for christmas yet, but there was a bit of a theme so I'm planning to talk about those in a week or two). 

The following four (click the titles to go to their goodreads pages) came in Book Riot's 'Best of 2017' book box (which I had conveniently forgotten that I had ordered - a lovely surprise from past me!)
PachinkoThe Woman Next DoorThe Prey of Gods, and Queens of Geek. Pachinko and The Woman Next Door were both on my book radar and 'to read some day' list, so it is really cool to have copies of them. Also, the Woman Next Door will be an option for the 'fenale protagonist over 60' task in the Read Harder Challenge. The Prey of Gods I hadn't heard of, but it sounds cool, and Queens of Geek I was SUPER excited to get my hands on - I've been keen to read it for ages and it's #loveozya, which you know I'm keen to read loads of in 2018.

On the topic of the Book Riot boxes - I love them! You might think a buying a box of books from the US to Australia would be crazy expensive, but at US$100 (which was AUS$130 when I ordered) this qualified for free shipping (including international) and you get 4 books (including a hardcover) plus a few bookish bits - this time a calendar, a set of literary conversation started cards, and some bookish matchbooks (that look like books!).  So, excellent value in my opionion.

The other books there were from a shopping trip after Christmas, mostly on the basis that they looked/sounded cool =)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - EVERYONE I know who read this absolutely raved about it, so I couldn't resist it at half off!

Dregs - this is the first book to be translated in another Scandi crime series (from Norway).

Maresi - feminist YA fantasy in translation from Finnish? Yes please! The cover says it's got a the Handmaid's Tale flavour and Harry Potter excitement, and the people at Readings recommended it - so I'm in!

Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda - how have I not read this yet? It's another one people rave about and I really want to get to it before the movie comes out in 2018.

Wreck - I had this out from the library during the year but didn't get a chance to read it then. It also made the top 10 books in the The (Tuesday) Book Club viewers' list of favourites.

The Cut Out - Jack Heath is a local Canberra author, and another one I've been meaning to read for ages! This was in stock and on sale, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to pick it up.

So, that's my final book stack for 2017!
I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Xo Bron

Friday, 29 December 2017

Five #loveozya releases I can't wait to read in 2018

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the not so catchy title of this post haha - it's the week between Christmas and New Year, and my brain barely even knows which day it is, let alone how to word eloquently haha.
But, anyway, I've been starting to try and keep track of the new #loveozya releases on their way in 2018, and I thought it would be fun to share five that I am especially excited to get my hands - and eyes - on in the new year..

Graevale by Lynette Noni :: 1 Feb from Pantera Press
Graevale is the fourth book in Lynette Noni's Medoran Chronicles, about a girl called Alex who finds herself accidentally attending a magical school in a parallel world. I talked a little bit about how much I loved the first book in this post, and I am looking forward to reading books 2 and 3 before Graevale comes out at the start of February.
I know I said 5, but I can't resist mentioning that Lynette Noni also releasing a collection of novellas about the Medoran Chronicles protagonists (We Three Heroes) in September AND has another book coming out in May called Whisper, which sounds fantastic too!

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross :: 24 April from Hachette
Leife Shallcross is not only a #loveozya author, but also a fellow Canberran - yay for reading local! Her debut novel - The Beast's Heart - is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, from the perspective of the beast. I LOVE a retelling - especially with a twist like this - and Beauty and the Beast is big at our place at the moment, so I can't wait to read this!

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein :: 1 April from Walker Books
This one has come to my attention just over the past week or two as reviewers have started sharing photos of the eye catching ARC (it looks amazing!). Like The Beast's Heart, Small Spaces is also a debut, this time a YA psychological thriller, about a young woman with a 'gruesome' imaginary (or is he?) friend.  Aaargh it sounds so creepy and fantastic!

Neverland by Margot McGovern :: 2 April from Penguin Random House Australia
Oooooooh the cover on this on (insert all the heart eyes here!) It has mermaids and pirates and Neverland and, gah I just want it now! The website says: "Kit Learmonth would rather die than grow up and leave Neverland..." - and it also sounds a bit creepy, and one of those books where we have to figure out what is real and what isn't (which I love!)

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman :: 1 March from Pantera Press
 Alicia Tuckerman's debut, If I Tell You, is a YA love story set in rural Australia about a girl with a secret and the new girl in town, who she falls in love with. Having grown up in the country myself I'm always really interested in books with 'small town' settings, and with this book being about young people trying to figure out F/F relationship in the face of the challenges a small town (and the small mindedness that can come with that sort of community) bring, I think it is going to be one of the most important Australian YA books published in 2018.

So, there are five (ahem, seven) new books to keep your eyes peeled for in 2018. Like I said, there are SO MANY awesome YA books on their way from aussie authors, so this is in no way an exhaustive list - I'll be keeping my eye on the #loveozya hashtag across social media, as well as the LoveOzYA blog (where you can sign up to get a monthly newsletter with a list of new releases), for more! And if anyone has recommendations for other new releases I shouldn't miss, please share in the comments!

xo Bron

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Review :: Pandora Jones: Admission :: Barry Jonsberg

I was lucky enough in December to win a couple of book giveaways on social media, including one from Allen & Unwin for this dystopian #loveozYA novel - Pandora Jones: Admission.

Now, I hadn't heard of this book before I won it in the giveaway, but when it arrived it sounded so good I started reading right away. And I was hooked right from the prologue. 

It's set in the near future (I think) and has kind of a creepy, chilling Stephen King vibe at the start, when a plague pandemic has swept the globe, wiping out most of humanity. Our protagonist, Pandora Jones, wakes up in some kind of infirmary in a quarantined facility called 'The School', where she joins a group of other young people who are being trained in all kinds of survival skills. Pandora has a feeling something isn't quite right, and we follow in her pursuit of the truth.

I felt like we were given a pretty good introduction to the characters, although there is definitely space forore development in the next books. I thought they were all pretty engaging (though not all likeable!) and the story super intriguing - it is quite twisty but you are given enough to have your own theories about what is happening, which I love. Because of this I found it page-turner-y, and felt like the plot moved along quickly. There were a few holes where I thought something didn't quite make sense, or I wanted to know more, but this is the first in a series so I expect there will be some fleshing out later, and overall I really enjoyed it - the next books in the series are at the top of my post-Christmas book shopping list.

I think this would be a perfect read for fans of the Divergent or Darkest Minds series, on account of the dystopian setting with teens in training aspect, and it has a bit of a Hunger Games feel too. It was also a great primer for one of my 2018 reading resolutions, which is to read more books by Australian authors - especially YA - and I'm looking forward to sharing loads of them here!

I gave this one 4.5 stars and can't wait to get the sequel.

Xo Bron

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Saturday stack :: #loveozya gift recs

I'm a day early with my book stack this week, because I wanted to share some #loveozya books that I think would make perfect gifts for the readers in your lives, just in case anyone is doing some (very) last minute shopping! So, here are my top 3...

Begin, End, Begin - Edited by Danielle Binks
This is a fantastic anthology of #loveozya short stories from a bunch of our best authors - there is so much variety in the stories that there is something for everyone in here!

Unearthed - Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This is the first book in a series which is being described as Lara Croft meets Indiana Jones in space - and it totally lives up to how cool that description makes it sound! I read this in November and loved it - the only problem being the inevitable wait for the sequel! 

Arkanae - Lynette Noni
This is another first book in a series, but the good news here is that not only are there already two more books available, but book four is being released in February. The Medoran Chronicles are a little bit Harry Potter, a little Narnia, and a lot of fun. I flew through the first book and can't wait to read the others so I'm ready when Graevale is released!

So those are my favourite recommendations for your last minute gift shopping - or for anyone lucky enough to get a book store gift voucher for Christmas and looking for ideas =)

Xo Bron