Sunday, 9 February 2014

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's reviews.

For review:

Tigers on the Beach by Doug McLeod (Aussie YA)
Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
Eleven (The Last Thirteen #3) by James Phelan
Vampire Academy: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Brandon T. Snider
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl

From a friend:

Cass from Words on Paper and I did a book swap, she sent me The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - thanks, Cass!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick
Published January 2, 2014 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 paws

From the blurb: Written in verse, The Simple Gift is about a sixteen-year-old boy named Billy who escapes the violence of his father’s home for a life of no fixedaddress. In the town of Bendarat, he meets a homeless man, named Old Bill and Caitlin, a seventeen-year-old girl from a privileged background.Each carries their own personal baggage and find themselves united by their search for meaning in an increasingly soulless world. Over early mornings, long walks and cheap coffee they discover, no matter how big or small, it’s the simple gifts in life that really make a difference.

The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick involves three main characters: sixteen year old Billy Luckett who leaves his alcoholic father and ends up in the fictional town of Bendarat. Caitlin Holmes, a seventeen year old who can’t wait to escape to university, and Old Bill, homeless by choice and trying his best to forget the past.

These three characters sound so different but essentially they are all good people. Billy helps Old Bill to repay the kindness he’s been shown in the past. Caitlin looks past Billy’s homelessness and sees the boy he truly is, and Old Bill helps them both to make up for his past. I was completely caught up in their stories, each of them felt so real.

For such a short book, the story has such a strong message and that’s increased due to the format of verse - so few words yet they convey so much. A perfect book for teens and adults.

Thank you to the wonderful people at UQP for my review copy.

Purchase: A&R  /  Booktopia  /  Bookworld  /  Dymocks  /  Fishpond (intl shipping)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews

For review:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Tandem (Many-Worlds #1) by Anna Jarzab
Nymph (The Love Oracles #1) by Tonya Alexandra (Aussie YA)
Love Match (The Academy #2) by Monica Seles
The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Purchased at a book fair (all UK YA):

A World Between Us by Lydia Syson
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Candy and the Broken Biscuits (Candypop #1) by Lauren Laverne
Knocked Out by my Nunga-nungas (Georgia Nicolson #3) by Louise Rennison (I only have two more left in this series to buy so that I own them all - #2 and #6)
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray
Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Today is the release date for Crystal Chan's debut novel, Bird. We're taking part in the blog tour and have a review, a guest post from Crystal as well as a giveaway for Aus/NZ residents.


Bird by Crystal Chan
Published Jan 29, 2014 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 paws

From the blurb: Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away.Jewel never knew her brother Bird, who died the day she was born, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy; they say he attracted a malevolent spirit – a duppy – into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since.Now Jewel is twelve, and she is sure that Bird will haunt them forever – until the night she meets a strange boy in a tree. If she can find out who he is, perhaps she can discover her own identity too.

Bird is Crystal Chan’s debut novel. Set in Caledonia, Iowa, the story revolves around twelve year old Jewel Campbell. Jewel lives with her parents, her grandfather, and their grief. On the day of her birth, her five year old brother jumped off a cliff, believing her could fly. Her grandfather has never spoken since that day and Jewel has lived with the feeling that she is a sub-par replacement to the son her parents loved so dearly.

I was hooked as soon as Jewel started telling her story; she’s so lonely, honest, and desperate for love from her parents. She’s never celebrated her birthday, she lives with parents that pay so little attention to her that she regularly sneaks out of the house at night, going for walks and climbing trees. The only grandfather she knows is an angry, silent one. Her father has drummed into her the importance of protecting their house from duppies, and she can recall the rare occasions on which her mother truly smiled. Her life was so, so sad and I wanted to snap her parents out of their stupor and make them love her like she so deserved.

I found the writing beautiful and clever; I adored that when Jewel used similes they related to her love of geology eg. ‘John’s face went hard, like onyx’ and ‘She always looks for wrinkles or something on her smoky quartz skin’ – this added to the depth of Jewel’s character and showed how much thought went into creating her.

The family dynamic was explored closely; it was interesting to see the traits Jewel had inherited from her parents and the ways in which she dealt with her anxiety. The addition of her father and grandfather's Jamaican culture was unique and well researched, I loved the power that the music and food had over them, how they helped to forge new relationships. The mystery surrounding Bird’s death and the appearance of new-John was so intriguing and it all came together so well. After all the sadness I found the amount of hope at the end was just perfect.

After finishing this book I could not shake the sadness that permeated my heart, I felt wrung out from crying. Bird is beautifully captivating, absorbing, and utterly heartbreaking. I cannot recommend this book enough, to both YA readers and adults.

I know it’s only January but it’s not too early for me to say that this is one of my favourite books of 2014, and of all time.

And now for Crystal's beautiful guest post:

In the book Bird, Jewel lives in a multigenerational household with her parents and her paternal grandfather. In writing the book, I think a part of me was really curious about living with grandparents, or the idea of grandparents in general, because I never knew mine on either side of my family. On my mother’s side, my grandfather died when I was about six years old, and my grandmother contracted Alzheimer’s disease when I was ten; while she died in my late twenties, I only knew her through the Who are you again? questions and vacant stares.
The grandparents on my father’s side lived quite a bit longer, and actually my paternal grandmother is still alive, but they’re pretty unreachable to me, since they live across the world in China and don’t speak English.
That’s one of the things about being bi-racial; you can have family members flung across the world, and language can be a big barrier. My father decided not to teach us Cantonese, which is his Chinese dialect, and so when he’d hop on the phone to talk with his siblings or parents, the most we could do was say the general “Hi, how are you?” and leave it at that. And of course things were good, very good. Hi, how are you? Oh, good, very good. End of story.
Except it wasn’t. My grandparents loomed large in the folds of my psyche, made me wonder more and more about who I was, where I came from, what were the stories of my parents’ past, which were in a way mine. I wanted to know these things – all of them – and yet I was blocked on both ends by illness or by culture. I would beg my parents to tell me stories about what it was like growing up, or stories about their parents, but they shut down my questions like a big, velvet curtain at the end of a show. And so the mystery kept building.
Flash forward a good number of years, to when I was writing Bird. Grandpa is silent – he stopped speaking the day that his grandson, Bird, died – and to Jewel, he’s a living, breathing mystery. She knows nothing about him – and his silence is just as loud as the silence I experienced regarding my own lineage. Anyway, Jewel slowly comes to learn about some of Grandpa’s past, some of his secrets even, and ultimately, she comes to see him in all his humanity, in all his gentleness, in all of his pride.
When I was in college, I took Chinese to learn more about my Chinese roots. While I picked up on the language pretty quickly, I was very aware that my school was teaching Mandarin, the official Chinese dialect, and that my dad and dad’s family spoke Cantonese, Hong Kong’s local dialect. When I went to visit my Chinese relatives a couple years ago, I stuttered out some Mandarin to my grandmother, who could actually understand me, despite the difference in dialects. She said some simple words back in Cantonese, which I could also understand (barely). I was twenty-eight years old and for the first time in my life, thanks to years of schooling, was having a conversation with my grandmother.
It was an incredible feeling to be in that moment. Looking back at the novel Bird, I know that’s where Jewel’s joy and amazement came from when she and her grandfather started “talking” to each other. She says after a simple exchange with him: We were having a conversation. Honest to god, it was as if the sun was exploding. You think it’s never going to happen, but then one day, it does.
You’re right, Jewel: You go all your life thinking it’s never going to happen, and all the signs point to just that. But stay on your toes, keep listening to your heart. Because you never know: one day, it might.
Crystal Chan 

Giveaway time! As mentioned this giveaway is open only to residents of Australia and New Zealand.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the blog tour:

Tuesday 28 Jan
Extract on Gobblefunked

Thursday 30
Review by Kate at whY.A.not?

Friday 31
Review by Bec at First Impressions

Saturday 01 Feb
12 Curly Questions on Kids’ Book Review

Sunday 02
Review by Kelly at Diva Booknerd

Monday 03
Review by Melanie at YA Midnight Reads

Tuesday 04
Review by Naomi at inkcrush

Wednesday 05
Review and Q&A with Danielle at ALPHAReader

Thank you to the wonderful people at Text Publishing for the review copy.

Monday, 27 January 2014

To try and catch up and get back into a regular schedule, I have some very short reviews to share on the blog :)

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend (Confessions #2) by Louise Rozett
Published June 25, 2013 by Harlequin Teen
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3.5 paws

From the blurb: Rose Zarelli has big plans for sophomore year—everything is going to be different. This year, she’s going to be the talented singer with the killer voice, the fabulous girl with the fashionista best friend, the brainiac who refuses to let Jamie Forta jerk her around...
...but if she’s not careful, she’s also going to be the sister who misses the signals, the daughter who can only think about her own pain, the “good girl” who finds herself in mid-scandal again (because no good deed goes unpunished) and possibly worst of all...the almost-girlfriend.
When all else fails, stop looking for love and go find yourself.

Mini review:

I enjoyed Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend and was definitely looking forward to this sequel. It covers a lot of great topics for teens: death, grief, abuse, drug use, bullying, friendship, school, and love -just to name a few. At times it did feel like there was a lot going on plot-wise, but each topic was essential to the story and all of them are important subjects for teens these days.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Published January 1, 2103 by Simon and Schuster
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 paws

From the blurb: Hannah’s best friend, Lillian, starved herself to death six months ago, and Hannah’s been haunted by her ever since. But now Lillian’s ghost has an urgent task for Hannah – someone is killing girls in their suburban neighbourhood, and the victims want justice. Drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets, Hannah slowly pieces the clues together, starting with the child-like paper valentines the killer leaves on each body. Bur her investigations are bringing her into the Valentine Killer’s orbit. How long before he strikes again?

Mini review:

I've always wanted to read something by Brenna Yovanoff and I really enjoyed my first experience of her writing. Paper Valentine was so atmospheric, I could feel the heavy heat Hannah’s town was experiencing, I adored the awkwardness between her and Finnegan, I felt chilled each time another body was discovered. The ending wasn't too obvious and it was a satisfying way to finish the story.

Thank you to the fantastic people at Harlequin and Simon & Schuster for my review copies.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews - it's a way for us to share the books we received during the week

For review:

Tigerfish by David Metzenthen (Aussie YA) - I love David's books, can't wait to read this one
Quincy Jordan (Crystal Bay Girls #1) by Jen Storer (Aussie YA)  - new Aussie YA, what could be better?
Borderlands (Chasing the Valley #2) by Skye Melki-Wegner (Aussie YA) - I have book 1 in the series but need to read it before I can move onto the sequel
Fool's Gold (Order of Darkness #3) by Philippa Gregory - I've never read any of her books and seeing as this is #3 in a series, I doubt I'll read it
Afterworld by Lynnette Lounsbury - sounds like it has potential
Doomed by Tracey Deebs - this too could be a good read
Twice Upon a Time by Kate Forster (Aussie YA/NA) - I've read another book in this series and while I'm doubtful that this is for me, I'll probably give it a go
Big Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus - not YA, I will not be reading or reviewing this book

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

To try and catch up and get back into a regular schedule, I have some very short reviews to share on the blog :)

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth
Published October 22, 2013 by Harper Collins
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 paws

From the blurb: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Mini review: 

I was not looking forward to reading this after Insurgent, which I found to be a huge let down. So, I was surprised when I enjoyed this. The story moved at a good pace and there was more communication between Tris and Four. I’ve read that Roth always knew how she was going to end the series and I’m glad she went with her planned ending, rather than changing it to make some readers happy. I found the events true to the characters and true to the story and was satisfied while also being sad.

How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You (Aurora Skye #2) by Tara Eglington
Published November 1, 2013 by Harper Collins
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 paws

From the blurb: Now that Aurora has found her prince, she is super keen to lock lips again with dreamy boy next door Hayden Paris. But it seems that wherever Aurora goes disaster follows, and despite her best intentions Hayden ends up in the emergency department of the local hospital.Meanwhile, Aurora’s friend Jelena is campaigning for school captain and persuades Aurora to run her Find a Prince/Princess Program as part of the election campaign…with interesting results. Matchmaking, double-dating, YouTube tutorials on kissing, and even a love compatibility calculator come into play – and yet it seems the course of true love rarely does run smooth and Aurora may need the wand of a fairy princess to turn this chaos into a fairytale.

Mini review: 

I absolutely adored How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You and was so looking forward to the sequel. Aurora is still her complex and entertaining self, but I didn't enjoy the plot of this book as much as the previous book. I think it had to do with Aurora’s self-doubt and constant over-analysing, and the way she kept pushing Hayden away, rather than talking to him. I understand why she did it, it goes back to the way her mother abandoned her and her father, but it was frustrating to read about. I do think this is a great book for teens, it covers the anxiety felt over dating, kissing, parties etc and it also took a look at the consequences of having a photo taken of you without your permission.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Harper Collins for the review copies.

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Rating Guide

5 paws = LOVED it
4 paws = really liked it
3 paws = liked it
2 paws = didn't like it
1 paw = really didn't like it/not for me/couldn't finish


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