Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 releases of 2012

The end of the year is upon us, and what better way to cap it off than to re-cap our favorite books? With only one day left to vote Inaugural 2012 YA Reader Choice Awards are winding up, but today I'm sharing my favorite releases of 2012.

top 10 releases of 2012

Well, that's my top 10 releases of 2012, in the order I read them. There are a few books which don't get mentiones here, purely by merit of them being 2011 releases. It made the task a LOT easier. What were your favorite 2012 reads? Did you post your top ten somewhere? Share a link in the comments!

Blogspiration (51): Merry Christmas

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

I am as light as a feather. I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A Merry Christmas to every-body! A happy new year to all the world!

Well, I think that about says it all. Merry Christmas! I hope you are all having an amazing Christmas period, and have a wonderful, happy, safe New Year's.

♥ ♥ ♥

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blogspiration (50): Believe

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

Believe. The Polar Express.

Christmas is practically upon us and I've so many things I could tell you: that I hope you're safe, I hope you're happy, and I hope you find joy in your holidays, in the small things and the large.

But I thought I'd share this: Every Christmas Eve, the very last thing I do before I go to bed is curl up on the couch with my husband and watch The Polar Express and I cry like a baby and whisper that I believe, still.

While wanting to believe in Santa in my twenties may seem a silly wish, it's not truly this I'm affirming my belief in. It's that, Santa or not, I still believe in the magic of Christmas. I believe in love, I believe in friendship, I believe in the true meaning, and true spirit of Christmas. And I think that, really, magic is in all those things. Sometimes it's hard to find, and sometimes it's easy to forget, but, every year, I choose to remind myself that I believe.

And I do.

♥ ♥ ♥

Merry Christmas, guys. Wherever you are, I hope it's a happy one.

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of Year Book Survey

Jamie from the Perpetual Page Turner is running an end of year book survey, and with sucha  fun way to talk the best of 2012, I couldn't resist!

The Diviners by Libba BrayBest In Books 2012

1. Best Book You Read In 2012?
My favorite 2012 release was The Diviners by Libba Bray. This book is extraordinary. Don't even get me started on the 2011 releases I read!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Don't get me wrong. I liked this book. But I expected to love it and... I thought it was okay. I'm curious to see where the series goes, but  I was dissapointed Throne of Glass wasn't my new Graceling.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
Easy, by Tammara Webber. I was unsure of this book. I don't take rape lightly, and – while it's a quality I dislike in myself – I'm aware I judge books for being self published alone. This book proved me wrong on the self-published front, and made me burst with pride that a book handles something like rape so deftly, effectively, with the power to really make a difference.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
My number one most recommended book has been Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost the past couple years running. This year? It's changed. I've recommended Storm by Brigid Kemmerer a lot, and I've been an ardent supporter/shipper/pusher of Anna and the French Kiss since I read it in January.

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
Elemental by Brigid Kemmer. I'm kind of in love with this lady.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
Brigid Kemmerer (Jeez. This is becoming a theme). And after this year, Hannah Harrington's officially on my auto-buy list, as are Stephanie Perkins and the amazing Laini Taylor.

Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
A story about a gay teen, brutal bullying, and contemp? Before this year I had never read a contemp. Then Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble came alone and shook me to my core. In a good way.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
Unravelling, by Elizabeth Norris. High-stakes FBI sci-fi thriller. AMAZING. Slated by Teri Terry runs a damn close second. If I wasn't trying to give 2012 releases the attention her, it would be Divergent, by Veronica Roth, hands down.

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book is like happiness distilled into book form. It's the perfect bad-mood/weather/day/reading-slump book.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

  The Diviners by Libba Bray

11. Most memorable character in 2012?
Karou, from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Étienne St.Clair, from Anna and the French Kiss.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor. Anyone who's read this will understand. For those of you who haven't, you truly won't regret it.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
There are two: Saving June by Hannah Harrington. This book broke my heart and re-made it better than ever before. It made me fall in love with contemporary, with life, and all over again with music.

Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble is just... extraordinary. This book... it's one of those books with the power to change lives. Wonderful.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
In my defence, I wasn't really aware of its existence till late last year, but I'm going to have to go with Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012? am I supposed to answer that with just one? :O
“This new thing between them it was... astral. It reshaped the air, and it was in her, too—a warming and softening, a pull—and for that moment, her hands in his, Karou felt as powerless as starlight tugged toward the sun in the huge, strange warp of space.”
― Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“I gaze out at the glittering sea, the breathtaking sky above it, and think of birds and the moment before the fall, and how my sister as a child had been strong enough for the both of us, and I wonder when exactly that changed. I don't know when, but it did. Jake was right - I'm strong in a way June never was. Because I know that I want to be here. Even with the pain. Even with the ugliness. I've seen the other side - marching side by side down city streets with people who all believe they can change the world and the view of the sunset from Fridgehenge and Tom Waits lyrics and doing the waltz and kisses so hot they melt into each other and best friends who hold your hand and stretching out underneath a sky draped with stars and everything else.

There is so much beauty in just existing. In being alive. I don't want to miss a second.”
― Saving June, Hannah Harrington

“I’ll never understand why some people can’t just let others live their lives, you know,” Danial said. “You don’t have to understand. You don’t have to agree. Just leave people alone. When I look at the moon and planets and stars, all that narrow-mindedness and hate seem so petty. The universe is such a big place. One hundred thousand light years just from one end of the Milky Way to the other. One hundred. Thousand. Light years. In the time it’s taken for light to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other, thousands of generations have passed. It really makes you realize how small we are, doesn’t it? How short our time on earth is.”
― J.H. Trumble, Don't Let Me Go

“Love is a luxury.”
“No. Love is an element.”
An element. Like air to breathe. Earth to stand on.
― Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
Shortest: Choker, Elizabeth Woods (233 Pages)
Longest: Last Sacrifice, Richelle Mead (594 pages)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. There was a scene in this book involving a cat that had me raging to anyone who would listen (big kudos to the wonderful Mandee from Vegan YA Nerds who listened while I ranted – repeatedly). I didn't wind up reviewing the book because, despite thinking it brilliant, I couldn't see past my anger over this one 'small' thing.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012
Burruu and Yukiko in Stormdancer. The bond between Thundertiger and human girl is the stuff legends are made of. And, I mean, this:

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
I read so many new authors this year that my old favorites barely got a look-in! That being the case, it has to be A Million Suns, by Beth Revis. She followed up a near-perfect debut with a book just as shiny, terrifying, and brilliant.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Anna and the French Kiss - Celine and Brodie. You Guys ♥
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - Brodie
Divergent by Veronica Roth - Yes, Brodie, you're always right. I'll listen better in the future. I promise.
Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble - thank you the amazing Brigid Kemmerer

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2012

Novel Sounds
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012?

I started blogging only shortly before the end of 2011, so this is very hard to answer as all my favorite blogs were 'discovered' this year! I love Novel Sounds, though. Elena runs wonderful features, and her music recommendations are perfect.


3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
The response to my post on 'Why I Love This Community' was wonderful, and only re-enforced the huge love I had before!

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
The Amazing Wendy Darling's discussion with Dan Krokos on reviewer space, Authors as public figures, and author/reader interaction was insightful, intelligent, and wonderfully handled by both parties. I loved Wendy long before this, and I respected her even more afterwards.

The amazing Lisa, behind Badass Bookie, recently posted a blistering retort to those who label YA fiction 'trashy' that had me cheering, and, well, pretty much every discussion post by one of my favorite blogger peeps, Amanda, at On A Book Bender.

5. Best event that you participated in?
Is it biased to pick Author Appreciation August, which I co-hosted with the beautiful Becca of Reading Wishes? I loved the spirit behind this event – saying thanks to the authors who give us so much, and it's so, so Becca to come up with an idea so thoughtful and beautiful and perfect – such a reflection of herself ♥ I also loved participating in Brigid Kemmerer's book tour for Storm. This was a ridiculous amount of fun.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?
Meeting my BFF Kristin in the flesh. Kristin and I met last year, online, through blogging. When Kristin flew out to Australia to spend the week with Lauren and me, and we met up with Alex from Alexandra's Scribblings, it was like the stars aligned.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
It's a fairly even tie between my review of Easy, by Tammara Webber, and my discussion posts on Blogger Burnout and Why I Love This Community.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
My review of Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble. This is one of those books I want to make ALL THE PEOPLES READ.

9. Best bookish discovery ?
E-READING! Oh goodness. Getting the Kindle App on my phone has revolutionised my reading!

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Eep, no! I'm failing terribly at my Goodreads challenge! I'm up to 87 of 100.

Looking Ahead…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?
Under the Never Sky. It's insane I haven't gotten to it yet!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?
I just wrote a post about this! It has to be The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?

Consistency and balance. A blogging place that is comfortable for me to maintain, and I'm happy with! I'd really like to hit that 100 for my Goodreads challenge next year, too ;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Best of 2012 Young Adult — FINAL Round!

Best of 2012 Young Adult
You’ve voted, we’ve tallied, and the numbers are in! Here are your Top Ten (give or take) contenders in each category for the best of 2012 Young Adult releases. Place your final votes, have fun, and may the odds be ever in your favourites’ favour!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blogspiration (49): Fantasy

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.



♥ ♥ ♥

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Once Burned (Night Prince #1) by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Once Burned
Author: Jeaniene Frost (author website)
Release Date: June 26th 2012 by Avon
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance
My Rating: 1 star2 star3 star4 star

A smoking hot vampire lead, an electrifyingly kickass heroine, and bloody fantastic action, Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost delivers, with a very different take on everyone's favorite Prince of Darkness...
From Goodreads:
She's a mortal with dark powers...

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person's darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude...until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world's most infamous vampire

...He's the Prince of Night...

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don't call him Dracula. Vlad's ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

The Story

Leila Dalton is anything but normal. As a child a terrible electrical accident tore apart her family, left her scarred, and worst of all, with the 'gift' of psychometry: She can see a person's past, present and future by touching an object they've come into contact with.

Oh, not to mention she electrocutes anyone she touches.

When a chance encounter exposes her abilities, Leila's talents arouse the interest of some very dangerous 'men,' bent on exacting revenge against an ancient enemy: none other than Vlad Tepesh — Dracula himself. But Vlad rescues her, spirits her away to his Romanian castle, and, as if finding out the Prince of Darkness isn't fiction wasn't enough, turns out to be the first man Leila's ever encountered who can withstand her lethal touch...

The 101

Frost has a knack for tough, likable heroines, and our newest Frost heroine is engaging, sympathetic, and with enough dark secrets to create an excellent balance with our favorite Prince of Darkness. Unable to touch another human being thanks to the lethal electric current that runs through her body, the discovery that she can touch another person — Vlad — makes for some incredibly sexy moments and complications.

Long a fan favorite in Frost's Night Huntress series, Vlad's charismatic, arrogant and dangerous as ever, though it's worth noting much of the humour that has previously characterised our favorite 'showy old bat' is dampened. I'd posit, however, that this humour is largely drawn from the easy friendship and banter he shares with a certain redheaded vampiric vampire hunter, and Cat (and friends), while making an amusing appearance in this book, are not its focus. What we see instead is a deeper side of Vlad: a history of pain, an immovable dedication to his people and more of the intensity that made him such a compelling character when he first made his appearance in At Grave's End.

But this isn't the happily-ever-after love story Frost's provided in previous Night Huntress spin-offs. Vlad and Leila each see something in the other that draws and attracts, and their relationship grows from one of mutually agreeable usefulness to something far more interesting. The romance is emminently palatable, yet, despite life-and-death stakes, the story lacks a feeling of conflict, despite it existing at every turn. As Jane at Dear Author states, the story feels 'safe'. There's an instant attraction between Vlad and Leila, and a guaranteed romance. Of course, that's always guaranteed romance in romance novels, but it's generally preceded by greater obstacles than Vlad and Leila face. In Once Burned, the romance is a matter of 'when', never 'how'.

It's difficult to discuss Once Burned removed from the context of its parent series, especially when characters as beloved as Vlad 'Dracula' Tepesh are key. But it does work as a standalone, and a satisfying start to a series in and of itself. Having said that, if you're after an introduction to Frost's work, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning: Halfway to the Grave. One of the strongest aspects of Once Burned is its building upon characters and a world already brilliantly developed.

The Verdict

Vlad's long awaited story is thrilling, but more than anything, this is Leila's story, and this new heroine is one fans and newcomers will easily connect with and enjoy. The pressure for Once Burned to deliver may have been crushing, but it doesn't disappoint. Once Burned delivers all the elements we've come to expect from Frost at her best: action, engaging characters, heady romance and steamy sex-scenes. A must-read for Frost fans.

Books in This Series:

  1. Halfway To The Grave

  2. One Foot In The Grave

  3. At Grave's End

  4. Destined For An Early Grave

  5. This Side Of The Grave

  6. One Grave At A Time (September 2011)

    • Once Burned (Night Prince #1) (June 2012)

    • Twice Tempted (Night Prince #2) (March 2013)

  7. Up From the Grave (2013)

Get Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost from:

Amazon | Kindle | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Borders/Bookworld | Dymocks | QBD

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blogspiration (48): Advice to Aspiring Writers & Human Beings

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

I know, I know, videos can be a pain to watch when you're trawling through blog posts, and I apologise. But if you have 90 seconds, and you've ever thought to yourself 'I can't', or 'I shouldn't' or 'but someone else has done/will do it better than I could,' I urge you to watch this video. If it's a choice been commenting, and watching this video, please, watch this video.

It's no secret I practically worship Neil Gaiman but, I think, you will understand precisely why after this.

Happy Sunday, folks. I hope you're having a loving weekend, and feeling inspired for the week ahead ♥

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Post + GIVEAWAY: "Butterflies Fly Around Me" - On Inspiration, by Samantha Faye Rogers

Many of you will already know Faye from her fantastic blog, A Daydreamer's Thoughts. But Faye's not here today to promote her blog, she's here because she has a very special, once in a lifetime opportunity: the chance to win earn a paid job blogging. If you'd like to help Faye, it's simple: At the end of this post is a link to a YouTube video.  All you need to do is watch the the video and 'Like' it, Comment on its YouTube page, and if you're feeling so inclined, share! And there's something in it for you, too! Comment or share the video, and you automatically go into the draw to win a fabulous bookish prize!

I want to start this post by thanking Sarah for being kind enough to host me on the blog today. It’s quite nice here, I’ve always wanted to be here and it feels good to finally be here. But um... moving on! So, I am here today to talk to you all about inspiration. With her lovely, and amazing, meme Blogspiration, I find myself often inspired by Sarah and so it felt fitting to write a guest post on inspiration.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Best of 2012 Young Adult — Have Your Say!

Best of 2012 Young Adult
What a year. We've survived apocalypses, The Dreaded Alice during Goodreads downtime and getting the news we have to wait another year for more Stephanie Perkins. But, on the bright side, from historical to contemporary, dystopian to paranormal, 2012 has been an amazing year for Young Adult fiction. The Goodreads Choice Awards are well underway, but I'm super excited to be working with the nefarious mastermind behind Eleusinian Mysteries of Reading to bring you the chance to have your say on the books you love, with a ‘choice awards’ just for Young Adult!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blogspiration (47): Inspiration is Like Food Poisoning

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

Inspiration is Like Food Poisoning

I've been a fan of The Oatmeal for a long time, but when Matthew Inman posted his comic on 'Making Things' recently, commenting that 'Inspiration is Like Food Poisoning', I knew I had to share this with you all.

Whether you're an aspiring writer, a designer, stuggling with the pressure to produce more content as a blogger (I struggle with this constantly), or working in any kind of creative capacity, I think we can all relate to this on some level. I really hope you can take the time to read this and laugh along with me ;D

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blogspiration (46): Tsundoku

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.


Credit where credit's due: I originally stumbled across this word over at the amazing Tumblr, Otherwordly, and pulled the definition from Wikitionary.

I just love that there is actually a word for people like us. Tsundoku. I think I feel a little less alone in the world ;D

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's Left Of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1) by Kat Zhang

What's Left Of Me by Kat ZhangTitle: What's Left Of Me
Author: Kat Zhang (author website | blog)
Release Date: October 1st 2012 by HarperCollins Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang2 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang3 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang3 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang

From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduring wunderkind – comes in many shapes and sizes, and never has it seemed it so normal and suburban, yet so alien, cruel and wrong as in the alternate reality of Kat Zhang's What’s Left of Me.
From Goodreads:
I should not exist. But I do.Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

The Story

It's an accepted certainty that every person is born with two souls, two girls or two boys, opening their shared eyes for the first time, as separate and unique as they are one and whole.

It's just as certain that one of those souls will evanesce. Dominant and recessive, one soul born to lead, and to live, the other destined to disappear. Two children within the body of one, with their family, friends, and their world, expecting one to die. Hoping one will fade.

Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie are two such souls. Addie, strong, in control, destined to live, and Eva, destined to... not. But Eva didn't fade when it was her time. Eva clung to life, and now the two girls go about their life, Addie leading, and Eva an ever-present witness, both hiding. Because having two souls, being a 'hybrid', is illegal. Eva and Addie hide in plain sight, from everyone. Even their family. Until someone notices the girl hiding inside, and offers her the unthinkable: a chance to walk again. To breathe. To speak. Trapped inside her sister's body for years, how could they say no?

The 101

While, in many ways, Kat Zhang’s debut is an introspective, reflective story, it also carries in its pages a suffocating unfairness, an immense corruption and cruelty that seeps deep enough to rattle bones. I’ve always felt this ‘type’ of novel can go two ways: leaving the protagonist – and reader – feeling empowered, rallied, ready to fight; or adrift in a world of corruption so vast they feel hopeless. What’s Left Of Me left me feeling frightened and small, unconvinced that, hybrid or not, a protagonist so ‘ordinary’ and powerless, so much a normal schoolgirl, could ever overcome a system and government so corrupt, and, honestly, I’m not entirely sure how that makes me feel, or how I feel about the book on a whole.

While it may sound oxymoronic, the lack of grounding in our world, the sense of ‘this could really happen, gives What’s Left Of Me a fantastical feel, but also robs it of frightening impact often granted by the same, yet it feels peculiar to comment on as, in all ways but the obvious – of two souls sharing a single body – there is a profound sense of normalcy to What’s Left Of Me, and an almost Stepford-like suburbia. But this suburbia doesn’t last for long, and despite sixteen years of practice for Addie/Eva, neither does the ‘normal’ façade.’

The relationship between Addie and Eva is the tale’s strongest facet, their pull and push, and the conflict between two very different people with very different desires forced to share one body, one life, is beautiful and painful to witness. This aspect alone is enough to make What’s Left of Me compelling, but a book is never one thing: Animal Farm is not a story solely about talking Animals, and The Hunger Games is not only a story about a girl who’s a decent shot with a bow falling for a baker. Great books are the product of many pieces falling into place cohesively. What’s Left Of Me was like a jigsaw with matching shapes, but not colours.

When we talk of series – and What’s Left Of Me is planned as a trilogy, I believe – it’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘Middle Book Syndrome’ referring to a slump mid-series, or a book two which serves as little more than filler. What’s Left Of Me, being book one, does not have this problem, but ‘Middle Of The Book Syndrome’ may be a more appropriate term. A shocking change in scenery mid-book lends the book a very different – and far darker – tone than that with which it starts, but it also trips pacing. It’s worth noting What’s Left Of Me is very much a character-driven story, but its contemplative tone has moments teetering dangerously close to dull in what should be the novel’s most tense moments.

While What’s Left Of Me is not without its flaws, it remains a lovely story. Quiet, meditative, heavy with stifling oppression, it offers moments of extraordinary insight. Reflecting on what we leave behind as we turn from youth to adulthood – in the case of this world something profound and tangible – What’s Left of Me serves as powerful allegory for the sacrifice of self, of youth, of the self-imposed requirement to conform we each battle.

The Verdict:

Filled with achingly beautiful moments of contemplation, and a dystopian side so oppressive, suffocating and cruel in its subtleties and familiarities it’s crushing, What’s Left Of Me is a wonderfully unique story. The concept is extraordinary, and the interplay, the push and pull, the balance between Addie and Eva is compelling and beautiful and heartbreaking. At its worst, it dances close by the boundary of boring, but at its best? It’s breathtaking. I liked What’s Left Of Me. A compelling start to a very promising series.

Books in This Series:

  • What's Left Of Me (2012)

  • As yet unamed sequel (Expected 2013)

Want it? Get it:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Bookworld (ex-Borders) | Dymocks | QBD
An enormous thank you to Harper Collins Australia for providing a review copy of What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blogspiration (45): Is It OK To Be Left Handed?

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.


Is it OK to be left handed? Think about it. I think this video kind of speaks for itself. Such a powerful message.
More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Libba Bray Q&A - The Diviners Australian Blog Tour

Those who read my gushing review of The Diviners by Libba Bray already know how I feel, but when I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to participate in the Australian blog tour, I leaped, skipped, and hopped at the chance. The Diviners was extraordinary, and if you're not familiar with Libba already, you're about to find out just how extraordinary she is, also...

Libba Bray Q&A -- The DivinersFirst-up, I just want to say wow – The Diviners is nothing short of spectacular. Could you tell us a little about how the idea was born? I like the idea that you’re a time-travelling, smart-mouthed, super-powered ‘Sheba’, and it’s autobiographical, but my history teacher always told me to check my sources...

LB: You know what? I like you. I just decided. (And thanks for the lovely compliment.)

Ah, the, “Where did you get the idea for this?” question. Hmmmm... You know, Sarah, sometimes I read interviews with other authors where they tell the captivating stories of how their novels came to be born—dreams, a sentence written in sand, a sad clown glimpsed from a bus window (Why does he cry? Is he French? Does he own a dogwho hates him?) I read these accounts in awe and jealousy as I shake my tiny fists to the indifferent novel gods who never grant me clowns glimpsed from bus windows, and I shed a single tear and seethe with novel-idea-origin envy.


The boring truth is that the idea for this came to me, as is usually the case at my house, over a longer stretch of time—no thunderclap moment. I have long been a fan of all things supernatural and horror (see my answer to your brilliant #3 question) as well as long-form storytelling: comics, twisty TV series, book series. And I am particularly a fan of TV shows like “X-Files,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dr. Who,” and “Firefly” in which there are spooky episodes atop longer, more political/existential story arcs. I really wanted to play in that sandbox. And so, about four years ago or so, I started thinking about all of the things I enjoy reading/watching and thought, well, hell’s bells, why not have fun and try my hand at that myself? Essentially, Sarah, I am being incredibly selfish by making a big Cobb Salad of all of the things which interest me: history, politics, serial killers, New York City, religious/ethical quandaries, the American mythos, identity, class and race politics, the XL Creepy, literature, music, dancing, witty banter, and people wearing outrageous clothes, possibly adorned with feathers. But with ritual murder and ghosts and cornfields. You know, like you do.

So, #1 is that I’m selfish. #2 is that, apparently, there is a lot thatinterests me, most of it creepy. #3 is that I have always been fascinated by the 1920s—I started reading Dorothy Parker at an impressionable age and The Great Gatsby also made quite the impression on me as a teenager. And #4 is that I really wanted to find a way to write about post-9/11 America, and I wasn’t sure how to go about that, how to explore all of the disquiet I felt about the nation we seemed to have become in pursuit of “justice” and “homeland security.” I started doing some preliminary research and I began to see some rather uncomfortable parallels between the America of the 1920s and post-9/11 America, and that was when the idea really started taking shape in my head.

That’s the origin story of The Diviners. Which is not nearly as captivating as saying, Oh, well, Margo Lanagan asked me, “Hey, Libba, how well can you take a punch?” and when I came to five days later, I had all four books sketched out in my head.

You know, I think I kind of like the Fact version every bit as much the fiction.
The extraordinary amount of research it must have taken aside, The Diviners doesn't seem like the kind of book that just 'happened'. It’s a Big Book, and not just in size – we're talking a sprawling sumptuous feast of a thing with Big Ideas and characters and vision. Was ‘Big’ the goal, or did it grow kind of organically?

LB: Well, Sarah, I do hail originally from Texas, the “Bigger” state. Really, you should’ve seen my hair in the ‘80s. It has been noted by many, many exhausted readers that I tend to, um, run on a bit. Seriously, how much

space have you allotted to this interview? You could be posting this in installments is what I’m saying here.

I knew it would be a sprawling thing as there was so much I wanted to explore. And of course, the story always changes in the writing of it. Story is a slippery fish—or at least, it is for me. But yeah, I knew going in that I was making a big, big commitment. The only thing to do was to tell my editor, Alvina Ling, that I was sorry and bake her cake. Lots and lots of cake.

Talking of big books, I’ve been seeing a few comparisons to Stephen King. I can see why: The Diviners is seriously creepy. I’m not quite sure whether to call it Horror, but there are certainly touches – what drew you to ‘horror’ and a ghost story?

LB: I have always been a horror reader. In fact, other than cute talking animals, that was my first love and my genre of choice. I read horror comics, watched Hammer horror films, “Dark Shadows,” “Kolchak the Night Stalker,” read Poe, Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t interested in scary things. Wait…why are you moving away from me? * pats bench * Sit here, Sarah. Let’s be friends. I got you a heart in a box. Look, it’s still beating…

I think I was drawn to horror at a young age because I was an anxious kid. A Kid Who Asks Lots of Questions. A Kid Who Wonders About Everything. I think I was a kid who was tuned in to the repressed and unspoken of the adult world; hence, the anxiety. I think that for a lot of anxious kids, being told that everything’s fine when they can sense that it absolutely is NOT fine only intensifies their anxiety because then they learn not to trust their inner compasses. Those feelings need an outlet. Enter horror, which is, curiously, reassuring: Oh, there really IS bad shit
out there. I’m NOT crazy. Whew! But rather than the free-form, ill-defined ennui and angst of the human condition, the fear that no one’s in charge, everything we believe might turn out to be advertising slogans, and we’re all one food shortage away from tearing each other apart, there’s a freaking monster or ghost or beastie that you can see and fight—a defined BAD THING. You can find the spell that banishes the evil spirit, drive the stake into the vampire’s heart, shoot a silver bullet at the werewolf, and perform the various exorcisms to rid you of whatever that monster-as- metaphor is. (Note: This is not true of all horror. There is plenty of Ill-Defined Bad Thing Horror. I’m saying that as a kid, I found reading about/watching monsters to be comforting in some sense.)

But I also found certain things that my country was doing in the name of “freedom” and “security” to be a sort of horror story, to be honest. The illegal wiretapping, the appeal to nationalism and nativism, the endless wars, the pictures and stories out of Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, taking a national tragedy and turning it into t-shirts and commemorative cups and key chains... I mean, Jesus. That’s pretty horrific to me.

You’re known for genre hopping, and wildly different eras, but why the 1920’s? (Also: 1920’s! I have a new number one time travel destination).

LB: The 1920s are so theatrical, aren’t they? At times as I did the research, I had the feeling that I was watching a play: the slang, the fashion, the parties, the corruption, the organized crime, jazz and bathtub gin, the ambition and greed, Gershwin, Ellington, Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, the New Yorker, flappers, chorus girls, the Harlem Renaissance and some of the best American writing/art/music, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, Rudolph Valentino, the movie palaces... It was wild! They don’t call ‘em the “roaring 20s” for nothin’. And, of course, inherent in this wild party is the knowledge that it’s all running up to a huge fall. When the party ends in 1929, it ends very badly. So there’s a ticking clock on it all.

If you do decide to time travel to the 1920s, just be sure to pack your own gin.

(*Cuddles pretty blue bottle* I knew I'd been saving this for something...)
It’s hard not to call Evie the star of the show, but I felt the book had two ‘main’ characters, Memphis Johnson being the second. He’s a ‘number runner’, essentially carrying illegal lottery numbers across the city for his boss. Could you tell us a little about this? Was this a real thing in 1920’s era New York?

LB:  I’d love to tell you about that—especially because the book I used on numbers running was written by Aussies! The book is called PLAYING THE NUMBERS: Gambling in Harlem between the Wars by Shane White, Stephen Garton, Dr. Stephen Robertson, and Graham White.

I found out about the book because I was reading a history blog called Digital Harlem, which is run by Dr. Robertson. It turned out that he was coming to New York City to give a lecture on the book at Columbia University. I trundled uptown to hear him talk (and to buy his book, of course), and he was great. He said that since most financial institutions were closed to African-Americans and it was hard to get loans, etc., many in the Harlem community saw numbers running not as gambling but as playing their own version of the stock market. It was also a black-owned, black-run business venture, and many of the runners and bankers were women. My favorite stories were about one of the bankers, or “Queens”—a woman named Stephanie St. Clair.

Can you give us any hints on what to expect from book two? I, for one, am dying to find out more about the Man in the Stovepipe Hat (who what is he?!) – can we expect answers?

LB:   You can expect more pages. Probably odd punctuation. And “Diviners 2” somewhere on the title page. ;-) I kid. I can tell you that there is a character, a Diviner, who makes a brief appearance in the first DIVINERS, and she takes a much more central role in the second book as does Henry. We learn a bit more about Project Buffalo and The Man in the Stovepipe Hat, or Mr. Fun Times, as I call him. Of course, this could all change and I could end up giving you an armadillo musical in the middle of the book. It could happen. Don’t get too comfortable, Sarah.

Last one: Congratulations! You’re a Diviner. You should be proud. Just... don’t tell anyone (except us). What’s your special talent?

LB:   Procrastination.

A HUGE thanks to Libba for her time, for The Diviners, and, well, for being her awesome self. If you love her, why not use the links above and let her know? You can find Libba on:
GoodreadsWebsite  |  Blog  | Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Tumblr

Blogspiration (44): Of Blood and Angels and Heartbreak and...

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.


Days of Blood and Starlight Quote

Aaaaand I'm in love all over again.

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble

Don't Let Me Go by J.H. TrumbleTitle: Don't Let Me Go
Author: J.H. Trumble (author website | blog)
Release Date: Dec. 27th 2011 by Kensington Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 starhalf star

From Goodreads:
Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, heart-pounding, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.

But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York--at Nate's insistence--that certainty begins to flicker. Nate's friends can't keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam's shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it's the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.Tender, thoughtful, and unflinchingly real, Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble is a witty and beautifully written account of young love, long-distance relationships, and learning to follow your heart.

Love. It’s romanticised, mythologised – frequently sanitised – and at its most beautiful, its most pure, there is no single greater force for good in this world. Yet soured or corrupted, or viewed from aside with a poisoned heart, the hatred it incites is perhaps the most destructive, and it is this – love and hate, and the price of both – that Don’t Let Me Go examines – in often heartbreaking extremes.

It’s a basic right, particularly in the Western world, that we may love who we choose, or, should the adage prove true, who our hearts decide we must. Yet many who take this simple freedom granted for themselves do not believe it a right, but a privilege, one earned by merit of religion, the colour of one’s skin, position, or gender.

We meet Nate, our narrator, and Adam, the Juliet to his Romeo – or vice versa – on page one, which also happens to be the middle of their story. Through a series of flashbacks, Trumble shows the couple’s past and present: sweet romance and horrifying brutality in parallels to a present of petty fights and bickering, of distance which renders hearts strangers, not stronger in their affections. Yet to talk of Don’t Let Me Go in context of romance or of ethical allegory alone is to do it an injustice, for it is so much more than each, or either.

It's a story of extremes, of shining love and blackest hate, of marginalization and bullying, and about a gay teen dealing with a world who views him as a thing which must be ‘dealt with’, rather than a boy with feelings and a beating, hurting heart. Concerned as it is with hate and homophobia (though I suppose the two are, truly, synonymous), it is far more than a simple parable. Dealing with the broader meaning of love than romance alone, family, friendship, and, above all, finding oneself, Trumble handles her characters with sensitivity, warmth and humour. The story’s heartache is balanced with joy, and a love story so tender and pure in its honesty, its messiness, its good and bad, it’s intoxicating. Don’t Let Me Go a ‘feeling’ book, an emotional one, one driven very much by its vividly real characters.

The cast of Don’t Let Me Go is varied and disparate, and amongst its friends and families and heroes, is a love so beautiful and fierce it is humbling to witness. Yet none of them are perfect. Some are certainly more so than others – Adam’s family, Nate’s grandmother, the lovely Juliet and hilarious Daniel Quasimi among them. Others are profoundly flawed, with Nate – broken, combative, and self-destructive – winning that race by a country mile. Nate is not always easy to like. He makes impulsive, foolish decisions, acts in anger and hurts those who love him most. Yet there’s a painful authenticity to his actions, and Trumble doesn’t make excuses for her characters, showing them simply as they are: human. Despite his failings, readers will find in Nate a sympathetic hero, even more so as his story and history unfolds in heartbreaking clarity.

Four hundred years ago Shakespeare penned his now famous maxim on the path of love and, while comic in context, it rings, loudly, true in Don’t Let Me Go. Marrying (500) Days of Summer and Hannah Harrington's Speechless with the raw emotional authenticity of Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, Don’t Let Me Go is a powerful story with a profound message.

Don’t Let Me Go starts with goodbyes, and ends with hope, with promise of a future just beyond a not-so-distant horizon. It’s not possible to take the journey through this tale without seeing horrifying truths and the blackest sides of humanity, but, ultimately, it is ‘much to do with hate but more with love,’ and it is this – love – which makes it such a powerful story. Interwoven with a deep appreciation of music, a warm sense of humour, and profound understanding of how much our world needs books such as this, and needs to have such conversations, Don’t Let Me Go is a gem – one uncut and unpolished, authentic and untainted, and immeasurably precious.

I sometimes wish simply saying 'read this book’ were enough – because this book has something very important to say, and to teach, and it's also (when it's not utterly heartbreaking) an absolute joy to read. So perhaps I'll say it anyway, if I may: Read this book. And love. Above all things, in all things, love.

Buy Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble On...

Amazon | Book Depository | Booktopia | Dymocks | QBD

Monday, November 5, 2012

Blogspiration (43): What A Wonderful World

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUp YA & Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers & writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation & just a little SOMETHING.

So sorry for the lateness this week, guys. It's been very busy, what with a certain young whippersnapper turning 24 in less than a month, and having a very important list of 23 things to cross off beforehand, and to those of you who didn't know: apparently chocolate pie is a thing. Huh. Who'd have thunk it?

ANYWAY. What A Wonderful World always makes me a little sappy, but David Attenborough reading the lyrics to What A Wonderful World as he says goodbye to decades of making the most spectacular, breathtaking documentaries I've ever had the pleasure to see? Wow, well, that's something else.

More on Blogspiration and Linky sign-up below the jump!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eve and Adam, Katherine Applegate & Michael Grant

Title: Eve and Adam
Author: Katherine Applegate (website) & Michael Grant (website)
Release Date: Oct. 1st 2012 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating:1 star2 star3 starhalf star

With the likes of Cinder, Unravelling, Obsidian—not to mention dystopian as a genre—it seems sci-fi’s been making a comeback of late. But while hi-tech, high-stakes and twisty plots are to sci-fi what teen angst and pointy teeth are to paranormal, sometimes, it’s just fun—and the Grant/Applegate dream-team deliver ‘fun’ in Eve and Adam by the bucket-load.

From Goodreads:
In the beginning, there was an apple.

And then there was a car crash, a horrible, debilitating injury, and a hospital. But before Evening Spiker's could regain consciousness, there was strange boy checking her out of the hospital and rushing her to Spiker Biopharmaceuticals, her mother’s research facility. Once there, Eve has to heal, and cope with an eerie isolation only interrupted by her overbearing mother, a strange group of doctors, and the mysterious boy who brought her there.

Just when Eve thinks she will die–not from her injuries, but boredom—her mother gives her a special project: Create the perfect boy.

Using an amazingly detailed simulation, that is designed to teach human genetics, Eve starts building a boy from the ground up: eyes, hair, muscles, even a brain, and potential personality traits. Eve is creating Adam. And he will be just perfect... won’t he?

The Story:

Evening Spiker expects to wake up dead after she mangles an arm, loses a leg and a whole lot of blood in a brutal car accident. Turns out hospital’s the next best thing. But she’s not there for long. No sooner is she waking up from surgery than her control freak, biopharmaceutical billionaire mother is whisking her away to her state-of-the-art research facility. Well, having her hot, blond, teenage errand boy, Solo, do the whisking for her.

Five-star luxury recovery wards are nice and all, but Eve is going out of her mind from boredom. To keep her busy, mummy-dearest gives her a task: design the perfect boy. Using state-of-the-art software designed to teach genetics, Eve’s the Beta tester for an interface that makes The Sims look like Kindergarten cut-and-paste.

But things don’t seem quite normal at Spiker Biopharm. Eve’s healing quickly—too quickly—Mummy’s keeping secrets, and errand boy Solo may not be quite what he seems.

The 101:

Three letters, vastly underrated, sum up Eve and Adam in a nutshell: F-U-N. Husband and wife writing team, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate set out to entertain and do just that.

Eve and Adam starts out at rocketing pace, with main character, Evening, losing a leg and having it sewn back on in a space during which you could your breath, and continues until the final page. Fast, funny, and irreverent, this a light read filled with exciting plot twists, nicely bridging the space between middle grade and young adult fiction. Grant and Applegate manage a masterful balance between pace, plot, entertaining characters and light romance, hitting all the right marks, while never getting weighed down in genre or category tropes.

Told through the split point of view of Evening Spiker and Solo Plissken, each character has a distinct, but equally exciteable and delightfully humorous, voice, and one gets the feeling that, between these two, there’s nothing they couldn’t accomplish—corporate espionage is merely their first stop. But Eve and Adam is very much a plot-driven tale, rather than a character driven-one. It’s a story about protoscience, gene ethics and high-stakes corporate conspiracies far more than a story about Eve, Solo, or indeed, its titular Adam.

There’s a space for Deep Thoughts and a time for existential angst. Grant and Applegate don’t maintain pretentions about either. Eve and Adam aims for fun and delivers.

The Verdict:

A fast-paced, plot-driven, sci-fi thriller, Eve and Adam is quick, electrifying and enormously fun fiction from a much loved authorly dream team. Readers looking for end of the world high stakes and ‘I can’t live without you’ romance may be disappointed, but those who are looking for fast, exciting entertainment will be thrilled. Pitch-perfect MG/YA cross over, Grant and Applegate deliver in this inventive, entertaining sci-fi romp.

Want it? Get it:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Borders/Bookworld | Dymocks | QBD
An enormous thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont  for providing a review copy of Eve and Adam!


Currently Reading:

Follow Me

Can't see Google Friend Connect? Join This Site

Want an e-mail notification when there's a new post at saz101? Enter your e-mail, and the Feedburner faeries will answer your wishes ♥


I receive books from publishers, in exchange for honest reviews. When this is the case, I state so at the end of each post. This doesn't effect my review of the book, or my opinion, and I receive no monetary compensation for anything posted on this site.
When you click on a link to Amazon from, I receive a small referral fee on any purchases made. It won't cost you any more to buy your books this way, but it does help to support this blog.
If you have any questions about any of the content on this site, contact me :)