Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brigid Kemmerer's SPIRIT Blog Tour: Interview & Giveaway!

Brigid Kemmer's SPIRIT Blog Tour

The admission that I'm a big fan of Brigid Kemmerer, will surprise exactly no-one who knows me, and I'm super excited to have her here today as part of the blog tour for her latest book, SPIRIT. Those who follow the series will know that this is the third full-length book in the Elemental series, and stars Hunterwho I've long thought was one of the series' biggest enigmas. Well, folks, the book is fantastic. Action-packed, exciting, and, in parts, unexpectantly heart-breaking. Brigid's been kind enough to answer a few questions about, so buckle-up and have fun!

Don't forget to vote for your favorite Elementals character belowthere'll be very exciting results if your choice winsand enter the giveaway!

OK, first up: Spirit is AWESOME. The most 'actiony' (totally a word) of the books so far. Was this a deliberate departure, or just how it happened? It kind of seems... on-theme with a pair of characters like Hunter and Kate. So. Was it a chicken or egg type of thing?

Brigid: Thank you! I think the books tend to follow the characters, and Hunter is definitely not a peaceful guy. His head is full of action and turmoil, so his life follows suit. It was a deliberate departure in that I knew his book was going to be full of drama, of all kinds. :-)

You've mentioned in the past that you've been writing about the Merricks, in various incarnations, since you were in High School. Was Hunter always part of this group, or is he a more recent addition?

Brigid: Hunter was always part of the group — but he was always the villain. (Side trivia: while the brothers' names haven't changed, his name has changed several times over the years. He's been Trent, Gareth, Garrett, and finally Hunter.)

I've always thought Hunter was one of the series' biggest enigmas--I could never quite get a read on him. In Spirit, we finally get to see inside his head. It's a pretty dark place. What was that like for you to write?

Brigid:It was DIFFICULT. Seriously, the most challenging character yet. Sometimes I couldn't even write on my laptop because it was too intense. I had to sit down and sketch out scenes in a notebook.

Maybe he just needs a big hug? Here, I have some volunteers...

Brigid: :-D

And Kate. She's one hell of a heroine... and very unexpected. She's a pretty big departure from 'everygirls' like Becca and Layne. Did you take a different approach to writing her? Was she a challenge?

Brigid: She was a bit of a challenge, because she's nothing like me. She's very ballsy and sure of who she is. (Though she's not too sure of what she wants.)

For me, getting some insight into the guides was one of the coolest parts of meeting Kate. We've met Becca's dad, but only in passing. Becca and Hunter are Fifths, but they're not trained. Kate is a Guide, proper. You know, in practice, I get why the Guides exist. They're a good idea, but they're... not nice people. Why? What went wrong? You'd think they'd be able to relate to people like Merricks more than anyone else...

Brigid: This is a great question! The Guides have a connection to the spirit, so they have an empathetic link with people, in addition to being able to influence the four elements. In the beginning, they were the natural choice to police the full Elementals, because that empathy for humanity allowed them to see right from wrong. But that same empathy made it difficult to destroy full Elementals — they felt for them, too. So the Guides learned to turn off their emotions, to do what they felt was necessary. Unfortunately, turning off their emotions for so long hasn't made them the nicest people...

I'm sensing we haven't seen the last of super-villain, Silver, and the Guides. Any hints on what to expect?

Brigid: You definitely haven't seen the last of them. There are some exciting times ahead in Nick's book...

A HUGE thanks to Brigid for her time, and the lovely Wendy at The Midnight Garden for making this tour happen. If you haven't had enough Brigid, well, you're in for a treat.

Check out SPIRIT on Goodreads:

13494365  13495067

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hushed, Kelley York

hushed kelley yorkTitle: Hushed
Author: Kelley York (author website)
Release Date: December 6th 2011 by Entangled
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

From Goodreads:
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn't protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he's never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn't matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another-Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.Then along comes Evan, the only person who's ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer's committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn't get what she wants... And what she wants is Evan's death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

My father once wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of a major Sydney newspaper. The paper in question had run an article discussing the dangers of certain breeds of dogs. Now, my father was not a particular fan of the breed; he was, however, a big fan of dogs in general. Having owned many in his life, he argued that there is no such thing as a bad dog, and that those animals which are dangerous are so for a reason: Abuse; training; mistreatment—themes which all rear their ugly heads in Kelley York's Hushed.

It recalls that well-worn argument of nature verses nurture. Take a child, a human being who is, for all intents and purposes, a blank canvas—a sponge. Expose that child to horrors; rob him of innocence, and what will remain? If that child reaches its darkest most desperate moments, what will he be capable of? Hushed looks at nurture: that we’re a product of our environments. But what it is far more interested with is a far more compelling question: how far is too far for redemption? Can a monster ever really change?

Archer is just such a monster, and saying as much is no secret. Hushed opens as he, ahem, supervises a ‘suicide’. He would do anything to free his best friend, Vivian, from the ghosts of her past, from those horrors, and if he has to murder to do it? Good. He’s never questioned his actions, until a boy named Evan forces his way into Archer’s life. Archer’s beginning to see that there’s more to the world than Vivian; that he’s capable of happiness, and not only that he’s capable, but he wants it. But is it too late for him to change and, perhaps more importantly, will Vivian let him?

Hushed is a tale with very few bright points. It’s bleak and cruel; a book about terrible people doing terrible things to one another. Its characters—Archer and Vivian especially—fascinated me, but I can’t admit to liking them. Archer draws to mind a teenage Dexter. He shows, and feels, no remorse for his actions until he learns to want something more for himself, and it’s rather heartbreaking to watch him doubt ‘more’ is something he can ever have, or deserves.

There are two key relationships are the core of Hushed: the sweet and tentative developing romance between Archer and Evan, and Archer’s toxic friendship with Vivian. The two prove rather antithetical of each other. The relationship and tangled history between Archer and Viv is complex and disturbing. It’s not co-dependent, exactly, but warped and twisted and rotting. While, in many ways, Vivian proves the narrative’s villain, she also represents Archer’s past and choices, and it’s not hard to draw parallels to any abusive relationship, where one party is terrified to leave. What is fascinating, here, is that it goes both ways, and as Vivian’s behavior grows more needy, callous, and cruel as the story progresses, it’s difficult not to step back and ask if Archer is really any better than she.

I’m sure I comment on this weekly, that a review is ‘hard to write’, but, truly, what makes Hushed so much so is the experience of reading it: I cannot admit to enjoying reading it. It’s compelling, fascinating, and I liked it immensely, but I took no sense of joy from it. No-one in this tome, even the ‘good’, is innocent, and no-one leaves with their hands truly clean in this story of manipulation, grief and horror.

The Verdict

Hushed is tense, bleak and gritty and boasts complex, layered characters. It offers a sweet, atypical romance worth reading for alone. But what Hushed does best is ask uncomfortable questions about the nature of redemption and revenge, and the difference between monsters and men, if, indeed, there are any.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coverlicious Comparison: Love it or hate it with a PASSION?


Left: AU/UK/US   Right: Portugese

A recent comment entirely out of the blue brought this to my attention — a entirely different cover for Lauren Kate's Passion.

Love 'em or hate 'em, what initially drew me to the series was the utterly gorgeous cover of Fallen. I liked Torment less, and when Passion came out? It's fair to say I hate the AU/US/UK cover with a passion. The girl looks skeletal, her arms are creepily thin and oddly re-colored, and the funereal veil of hair complete with 1980's crimping (see the fully blown up version here for detail)? Make me shudder. And the dress! The lovely voluminous gowns from Fallen and Torment are absent, replaced with... well, you get the point.

I love the drama of the Portugese version —the passion. The feel evokes what I loved about the cover of Fallen, and the cover for Rapture.
My opinion's clear, but what about you? Let the cover wars begin:

The version you know, or the version that could have been?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6), Chloe Neill

Biting Cold, Chloe NeillTitle: Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6)
Author: Chloe Neill (author website)
Release Date: November 1st 2011
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

I've long been a fan of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires. The funny, relatable heroine, the very-human vampires, the utter obsession with food—all combine to create a world I love coming home to. We're six books in now, and I've been there all along—but Biting Cold and I didn't get off to a good start. I thought it was going through the motions, plodding along; meanwhile, it kept telling me to sit down, shut up, and buckle up for the ride.

I hate being told what to do.
It's funny how that works out, because it always so happens that it's best when I comply.
From Goodreads:
Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and Merit the vampire can't tell if this is the darkness before the dawn, or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times have never been more precarious for the vampires. If only they could lay low for a bit...Then magic rears its ugly head when Lake Michigan turns black. The mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows a panic is coming. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for both the vampires and humans.

It's been a long wait between Drink Deep and Biting Cold for me—a year or more—but time has not passed in Chicagoland, picking up immediately following the conclusion of Drink Deep. This is not a book for newcomers, nor is it easy to write a review on the back of the series' last installment (especially given potential for spoilers). With five books of complex politics, training, and infuriating, addicting, stop/start romance, Merit's back, as are the rest of the gang—the good and the bad. And the very, very bad.

Tasked with tracking down a threat not just to her vampire-family, Cadogan House, or even her city, but the entire world's continued existence, we join Merit—graduate-student turned-reluctant-vampire—on route to secure a magical book that could prove the key to halting the world's destruction. And “halt” is a word long-time Chicagolanders will learn to hate by the time Biting Cold is through. The blurb of Biting Cold tells as much as I have so far, but what you may not know is that you're looking at a mere third of the novel, and it's safety off, brake lines cut the rest of the way through.

Much of Biting Cold's action happens in its final chapters, but there is more than one kind of action. Whether it's sparring, bickering, eating 'mallocakes' (marshmallow filled, chocolate covered cakes, people!) or navigating the dangerous pathways of local and international politics—both human and those of a dangerous vampire Grand Poobah—there is never time for rest in this world. There is, occasionally, some time for other bed-bound activities, and fans will get their share of such carnal delights here, making Biting Cold the steamiest installment of the series so far. Finally.

On the topic of 'finallies' Neill offers more than a few of them, providing resolution and satisfaction in a number of key relationships, and—one of those most fulfilling points of all—long awaited answers. Specifically on the question of one of Chicagoland's longest-standing riddles: ex-mayor of Chicago, the enigmatic Seth Tate.

Despite all this, I do hesitate to call Biting Cold action-packed. To be fair, well, it is, but for a large chunk, I was waiting, even while watching it happen. The complicated entanglements in Neill's Chicagoland world are infuriating, stopping before they start, and they continue, here. While I can see the players moving towards their finales and happily-ever-afters, the series is hardly changing down gears, or moving towards a conclusion—Neill is not done yet. This was a book made, for me, by its thrilling final chapters, each of which left me a breathless, crazed mess. I keep finding myself staring off into space, daydreaming about Merit and her pals and itching for more. Well. Just as well House Rules is already on its way to my Kindle.

Biting Cold, I'm sorry I doubted you, darling.

Books in This Series:

  1. Some Girls Bite

  2. Friday Night Bites

  3. Twice Bitten

  4. Hard Bitten

  5. Drink Deep

  6. Biting Cold

Want It?

Get it from Booktopia
Get it from Book Depository
Get it at Amazon

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gathering Dark (The Grisha #1), Leigh Bardugo

the gathering dark leigh bardugoTitle: The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo (author website | blog)
Release Date: June 2012 by Indigo/Hachette Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star

Every now and then you fall in love with a book (I do, too, for that matter). The kind of love for which the stars align and angels sing on high. It may be perfect, or perhaps its imperfections make it so. Nevertheless, it calls to you, something inside it sounding in recognition, and you know the weight of true love. This book, the one you fall for, flaws and all, or despite its blinding perfection, is the hardest to discuss and review. How do you communicate the depth of that affection in a few brief sentences? Well, I suppose you gush—you've been warned.
From Goodreads:
Sweeping, glorious fantasy romance about an orphan who must save her kingdom from the seductive and terrifying Darkling. The most compelling romance since Twilight.The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?

shadow and bone leigh bardugo‘Like calls to like’, is the mantra of the Grisha, the powerful mages reviled and worshipped in the country of Ravka, a reimagined, fantasy Russia. And so it is, like called to me from the heart of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone, touching something deeper than an intellectual appreciation alone. Bardugo’s debut struck a chord with me, still humming with the long keening echo that remains after the sound.

We’ve heard similar stories before: Simple, ordinary girl discovers extraordinary powers and is drawn into danger and intrigue and Destined To Save The World, and, at its simplest, this is the tale of The Gathering Dark, also. Alina Starkov, orphan—cartographer in the King’s Army—and best friend to a boy who is not so different to herself, discovers a power her people have awaited for centuries. It turns out she is rather different, afterall—she is a Grisha.

‘Grisha’ are a part of life in Ravka, able to wield fire, water, or air; heal with a glance; or rip a heart from a chest. The most powerful of them can control darkness itself, and he stands alone, ruling them all: The Darkling. And the Darkling, powerful and compelling, has been waiting for Alina longest of all. He believes that, together, they will change the world.

He is not wrong. He seldom is.

For all The Gathering Dark’s treasures, from its ‘everygirl’ heroine, to its charming cast of secondary characters, it is this Darkling that shines the brightest, despite his name, and not for inspiring schoolgirl crushes alone. Compelling and enigmatic, he is, to quote another reviewer, “one of the most amazingly crafted, heartbreaking characters of YA.” It’s rare I find a character gets so deep under my skin I’m still feeling him hours and days later, itching like phantom limbs.

Darklings aside—especially when they are not our narrators—The Gathering Dark boasts a strong, admirable protagonist, as any good fantasy should, but her strength is internal, despite crippling self-doubt. Alina is likeable and capable, and the ease with which her voice flows through the novel’s pages adds to its pull. What captured me most was the intensity of feeling she shared with me, the reader; how she drew me into friendships and romances I felt passionately about.

While the world of The Gathering Dark is immersive and lovely, strange and foreign, it’s a largely character driven tale, but then, the beginnings of most heroes’ journeys are. That aside, the Russian inspiration of the world of Ravka lends it a new and exciting texture, unique from the European-themed high fantasies which have long dominated the genre.

The Verdict

I’m not sure I believe in perfect books, not really. For me, ‘perfect’ is utterly subjective; a feeling, not a fact. "Perfect", to me, is the book which captures my imagination, and something deeper, more profound—the kind of book I would read as a child and search deep inside myself afterwards, looking for hidden powers, and perhaps still do in adulthood. Filled with mystery, wonder, magic and dread, The Gathering Dark is precisely such a book.

Books in This Series:

  • The Gathering Dark (AU/UK) / Shadow and Bone (US) June 2012

  • The Shadow Fold (AU/UK) / Siege and Storm (US) June 2013

An enormous thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2), Veronica Rossi

Title:through the ever night veronica rossi Through The Ever Night
Author: Veronica Rossi (author website | blog)
Release Date: January 8th 2013 by ATOM
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Sequels are tricky things; even more so 'middle books'. With a happy romantic union cemented in book one, how does the author sustain chemistry? With a journey underway, how does she maintain momentum on route to a distant conclusion? Is it time to answer questions? Pose them? Fans are demanding creatures—the more ardent, the more so—but, as readers, our favourite authors win our trust for a reason, a reason Veronica Rossi demonstrates in Through the Ever Night.
From Goodreads:
Aria has struggled to build a life for herself outside Reverie. It hasn't been easy adjusting to life in the wilderness but that struggle has been worth it with Perry by her side.But Perry has other challenges. His people are looking to him for answers. Answers about what happened to his nephew and what's happening to their world. And they don't trust the privileged Aria, one of the enemy, in their midst.Soon he'll be forced to chose between the tribe that looks to him for leadership and the girl that looks to him for love.

We left Aria and Perry locked in a joyous embrace in Under the Never Sky, and it is where we find them in Through the Ever Night. But their reunion is not to be a drawn out, happy thing. Peregrine of the Tides is now Peregrine, Blood Lord of the Tides. Where once he enjoyed unfettered freedom, the weight of hundreds of lives now rests on his teenage shoulders, and his people do not take kindly to a daughter of the people who stole their children sharing their home.

Aria finds herself no less entangled. Charged with the hope of those who exiled her, Aria must find the Still Blue, a fabled land free from the deadly storms of the Aether sky, or face the death of all she holds dear.

It’s a dark place to find Perry and Aria, and where Under the Never Sky ended with hope, Through the Ever Night quickly forms fractures and wears it down. Aria, exiled from her home, without family, and trapped as a pawn of the manipulative Consul Hess, is isolated, even from Perry. She’s strong and selfless, and, having developmed a quiet wisdom, finds herself torn between love and sacrifice. Though Perry owns her heart, Aria—an outsider amongst the Outsiders—can see her presence undermining Perry’s new and fragile leadership. She’s faced with difficult choices, and each direction leads to pain and isolation. It’s the first of many obstacles the couple faces, and creates a wedge, forcing larger cracks.

The story separates the couple quickly and, apart, Through the Ever Night shows Perry’s analogous strengths and weaknesses. It seems that, in story, nuance and detail, Rossi may be playing favourites with her children. There’s a weight given to Perry’s story, an extra layer of complexity which render Perry’s pages the most memorable. If, perhaps, Under the Never Sky was Aria’s tale, this is Perry’s. Perry is caught in an unenviable position between right and wrong, instinct and reason. Seen as ‘rash’ by his tribe, he is judged not entirely by his actions, but a violent undercurrent of desperation. He’s torn between the ability to act with the freedom he has always known, and his responsibility for hundreds of lives. It is a painful thing to witness, but Perry, as Aria, demonstrates remarkable growth over of the course of the story. Both battle very real internal foes, as well as external: doubt, fear, desperation and betrayal are demons they both face in varying degrees.

While Aria and Perry are separated by distance much of the novel, they are never far from each other's thoughts, and each grows stronger individually. While second instalments frequently see couples breaking up and angst filled confrontations, the couple share something profound, and it shapes them, but they have purposes and goals. Neither abandons their friends and responsibilities because they cannot live without the other.

It seems as though Through the Ever Night could easily pose as a parable for the pressures of childhood and young adulthood in the modern world; the conflicting worship of youth, but the push to learn faster, grow faster, mature, absorb, and assimilate. The burdens its young heroes face are crushing and unfair, yet ultimately the story concerns itself more with love and friendship and family. There are messages to be found, certainly, but they are much like images seen in clouds on lazy days: there for those who choose to find them, regardless of their creator's intent.

The Verdict:

With the final page turned and many months free for reflection (the trilogy's conclusion is, after all, not expected for a year), I find myself reluctant to leave Aria and Perry's world behind. The Aether sky shines and flows in my imagination, and its characters whisper, beckoning my return. Rossi proves a talent for creating hope, sweet and pure as, despite the tale's darker moments (of which there are many), I find myself lingering not on the pain, but on its hopeful final pages, on reunion, smiles, and a wish for tomorrow.

Books in This Series:

  1. Under The Never Sky (2012)

  2. Through The Ever Night (2013)

  3. Into the Still Blue (Expected 2014)

Want it? Get it:

Amazon | Book Depository | Booktopia (AU) | Bookworld (AU) | Dymocks (AU)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sanctum, Sarah Fine (Guards of the shadowlands #1)

sanctum sarah fineTitle: Sanctum
Author: Sarah Fine (author website | blog)
Release Date:  Oct. 16th 2012 by Marshall Cavendish Children's/Amazon Children's Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 starhalf star

In Sanctum, Sarah Fine's début offering, nightmares walk the streets of a hellish city, normal girls can be fierce warriors, and tortured boys so much more. The world of Sanctum is terrifying and fascinating, the characters’ pain palpable, and the romance? Phwoar.

From Goodreads:

"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

"Would you risk your afterlife to save your best friend’s soul?" I’m not sure I would if the friend was Nadia, but Lela would. Especially since she owes Nadia her life. Nadia helped Lela recover from the darkest point of her life; overcome a history of neglect, abuse and depression... Only to succumb to darkness herself.

When the seemingly perfect, sunny Nadia takes her own life, Lela is shattered, unable to comfort herself with thoughts of Nadia being in a better place, afterall, she knows better. She’s haunted by dreams of a shell-shocked Nadia wandering the streets of a place Lela knows all too well--the place all suicides go on their death. A place worse than the life they fled from. Lela will do anything to save Nadia from her fate, even risk death, itself.

But Sanctum is not Nadia’s story. It is Lela’s. And while it is a story of love, and a kind of selfless friendship that crosses worlds, it’s a little something more.

Sarah Fine approaches her story from a unique background — she’s a psychologist. Sanctum deals with suicide, and it’s done well, Fine capturing conflicting feelings of guilt, despair, anger and betrayal from its ‘left behind’ protagonist, but what sat uncomfortably true was its departed Nadia’s hopelessness and pain.

It’s a dark book, dealing with dark matters, but, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a book about suicide. It reads as Urban Fantasy, with all the dark, gritty hallmarks of the genre. What Sanctum does well is the creepy, the visceral, the haunting. Tortured souls wonder the streets of Suicide City, grasping at ‘things’ to fill their empty spaces; monsters hide within the shadows, and without. Nightmares grow and grasp like living creatures, and in one particularly disquieting scene, a building which feeds people their own fears in order to consume them left me with chills.

Sanctum’s heroine, Lela is tough, brave and damaged. At times she felt forced, and with her voice to guide me, it took me some time to fall into the story’s flow. But, once she held me her grasp, she did not let go. When she’s not posturing and telling the reader she’s tough and people don’t mess with her because she done time on the inside, yo, I liked her immensely. It’s the fragile, aching inside of her, not the tough girl exterior, I grew to love. She’s capable of great selflessness—as indicated by her willing trip to hell to save her friend’s soul—but there are times when her selflessness puts others on the line, teetering dangerously close to its antonym. There’s an interesting theme of choice here, or perhaps, if not choice, the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. The lines between both in Sanctum are vague, as they can be in real life.

Of course, at the core of Sanctum is a romance, intense and sexy as could be wished for. Lela falls for Malachi, King of the Underworld. Okay, okay, he’s not at all King or ruler. He’s a guard, a protector, with some very dark secrets. The two share an instant attraction and fascination with one another, and it develops, while alarmingly fast at first, into something far deeper. To put it succinctly, when I finished the book, my thoughts on the romance could be distilled into one word: phwoar. It’s totally a word, right?

That romance aside, Malachi himself was, for me, the story’s greatest draw, and as his long history unfolds in Sanctum’s final pages, I found it hard to look away.

The Verdict

So there you have it. Sanctum. Combine scorching chemistry and a creepy, living world, built of old and new. Add swords, knives, a kickass heroine and dashing, tortured hero. Then take another girl—a broken one; a friendship and loyalty powerful enough to reach across worlds, and you’ll have Sanctum. To quote another, far more eloquent, reviewer, Sanctum is “an amazing story of loss and redemption and courage and grief, but I know you’re all skimming this paragraph to hear about the boy, right?” Well, the wait was worth it, and I’m sure you, ‘dear reader’, will find it so, too.

Want it? Get it:

Amazon / Kindle Booktopia (AU) | Book DepositoryBookworld/Borders (AU)  Dymocks (AU)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blogspiration (58): The End

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.


Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don't really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren't really an ending; some things are never-ending.

Over a year ago, an idea took root in a blogger's brain. An idea to inspire those around her, and, in doing so, inspire herself. To release something positive into the world.

I was not that blogger.

That blogger was Kristin of GrowingUp YA.  For the last year, and longer, I've been privilege to call Kristin one of best friends, or, as we prefer, my 'boo' (don't tell her I called her that in public), and when she approached me this idea, and asked if I'd like to co-host, I said yes. Thus, Blogspiration was born.

Over the last year, it's been an honour and a privilege to share Blogspiration with you. Seeing what everyone has to share, every week, the wisdom they offer, and the happiness and inspiration you have all brought me is a gift I cannot adequately thank you all for.

I do not believe all good things come to an end. The very best things -- faith, friendship, hope and love -- can be boundless, stretching out over our lifetimes, and long past them, to change the world, indelibly, and leave it a better place. But life and death, beginning and end, are the nature of most things, and Blogspiration, too, has drawn to its close.

As Blogspiration was Kristin's dream, it seems fitting it reaches its conclusion as she, herself, takes her leave from blogging -- though whether or not that is permanent is not for me to say; she may very well return!

So, today is the very last day of Blogspiration as it stands. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has made this little meme what it is, for your friendship, and for making our little corner of the blogosphere and better, more positive place.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Touch of Power AND Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

scent of magic maria v. snyder Australian cover   touch of power

It's Wednesday. It's cold. I'm sleepy.
And did I mention it's Wednesday?

So let's add some cheer to the mid-week slump with a giveaway! Thanks to the very kind folks at Harlequin TEEN Australia I have one prize pack including Touch of Power and Scent of Magic from the HEALER series, the latest offering from my long-time favorite author, Maria V. Snyder.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blogspiration (57): librocubicularist

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.



Librocubicularist, you say? Why yes, I believe I am. Though I also read on the couch, on the train, on buses, and while I'm walking down the street. Is there anything more wonderful than finding a word which had to have been made just for you?

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Penelope, Rebecca Harrington

penelope, rebecca harringtonTitle: Penelope
Author: Rebecca Harrington (twitter)
Release Date: January 24th 2013 by Virago Press/Hachette
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

It’s not every day a book like Penelope finds itself in one’s hands – or mailbox.

Accompanied by a personalised note singing its praises, and a double-sided page of gushing commendations from the staff of its Australian publisher, Penelope made grand promises, and charmed me from page one.
From Goodreads:
Prep meets The Marriage Plot in this uproarious debut novel, a send-up of campus life starring one singularly unprepared, socially maladroit, charmingly clueless freshman named Penelope.

When Penelope O'Shaughnessy arrives on the Harvard campus she is amazed: she has never seen such a vast and majestic Au Bon Pain. She has also never met anyone like her fellow freshmen. Everyone is overwhelmed and overworked, striving to get into the right social clubs and frantically pulling all-nighters at the library - and classes haven't even begun.Penelope's roommates aren't exactly the soul mates she had hoped for (Emma is a social climber intent on punching The Pudding, while Lan is a misanthrope who paints her room black). Meanwhile, her 'Images of Shakespeare' class seems mostly to involve angry discussions over whether or not the Bard was overweight; the dorm room 'pre-game' sessions never seem to lead to a real game; and the aristocratic upperclassman she has admired from afar never seems to be eating in the freshman dining hall, where she might woo him alongside the make-your-own waffle bar. When Penelope finds herself roped into a production of Camus' Caligula, she begins to worry that her entire college experience is beginning to resemble an absurdist play.

A laugh-out-loud depiction of college life, PENELOPE announces the arrival of a deliriously funny new writer.

The Story:

Those of us who didn’t have our day in high school, are often advised to wait. That high school isn’t everything. That, eventually, the popular kids will wind up selling cars or hamburgers, while for us, the awkward, the quiet and the outsiders, the best is yet to come. As Elizabeth Halsey sagely advises in Bad Teacher, “I’m thinking college is your window.”

So it is, with years spent cultivating personality, peculiar anecdotes about car seats and a Tetris addiction to rival Elvis’ love of cheeseburgers, Penelope arrives at Harvard ready for her day. And her first year is going to be a very long day.

The 101:

Now. I loathe the word ‘quirky’ with an irrational intensity. Yet I can think of no term which better suits Penelope and its titular protagonist. With its sweet, intellectual humour and matter of fact whimsy, there is a touch of fairytale to its pages.

Penelope herself is a peculiar character, hapless and naïve, yet practical – somewhat. There’s something of Amelie to her and, despite claiming to loathe whimsy in all its forms at one point in the novel, she’s possessed of a certain matter-of-fact dreaminess which fits the word perfectly. What makes her so utterly charming is how relatable she is as a character. From her social awkwardness and proclivity for playing Tetris on her phone instead of talking to her vaguely neurotic way of seeing any given situation, I rather felt I knew Penelope as I know myself.

With the familiar tone of a humorous observer and a plot concerned not with what is happening, so much as to whom, Penelope has been likened to the work of Wes Anderson, and it is not difficult to see why. There’s a delightful incongruity between Harrington’s writing and the book’s semi-adult subject, and it is this which lends the book its fairytale leanings. After all, infant-eating witches are not light reading, but when told with childlike honesty it lends new perspective. Penelope is hardly this dark, but the deceptive simplicity and levity of its tone hides something sweeter and deeper.

The Verdict:

Penelope is not a love story, nor a coming of age story, but a simple insight into Penelope and her friends' life with often humorous honesty. With an affable and ‘quirky’ protagonist and Rebecca Harrington’s charming prose, Penelope's delightful naïveté will prove a welcome balm to all who have ever felt out of place.

Want it? Get it:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Bookworld | Dymocks | QBD
An enormous thank you to the Australian publisher of Penelope, Hachette for providing a review copy of Penelope!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blogspiration (56): Family

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.


Brodie from Eleusinian Mysteries has been one of my favorite bloggers since the start, and when she speaks like this, it's think obvious why. That's it, for this week. Happy Sunday, my blogging family and friends xx

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unravel Me (The Juliette Chronicles #2), Tahereh Mafi + GIVEAWAY

unravel me tahereh mafi australian coverTitle: Unravel Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi (author website | blog)
Release Date: 1st February 2013 by Allen & Unwin
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Once upon a time, on a day much like any other, a girl had An Idea: What if Rogue had a purple suit? And a boyfriend? She sat down to write, and Shatter Me was born. Soon to follow was a sister named ‘Unravel Me’, and the other X-Men joined the tale. Unravel Me was fair and lovely, quickly surpassing her older sister, and, oh yes, she got all the boys.
From Goodreads:
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. A place for people like her - people with gifts - and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.She's finally free from the Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch. Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.Haunted by her past, terrified of her future, Juliette knows that in her present, she will have to make some life-changing choices.
Choices that may include choosing between her heart - and Adam's life.

What a broken heroine Unravel Me has. We join Juliette two weeks after we left her, but for all that hope Shatter Me offered in its dénouement, Juliette is shattering all over again. Adam is distant, and if she thought she found a place she belonged, with people like her, who could accept her, the wary stares and constant isolation say otherwise.

Broken, isolated and misunderstood are familiar places for Juliette, but was there ever a lonelier place than the kind felt surrounded by people? Juliette is a most singularly damaged heroine, and it’s difficult finding her withdrawing into her shell and shouldering so much blame for problems outside her control – both from herself and those around her. While it would be easy to find fault in her anxieties and self-pity, it’s important to acknowledge her unique position: while Juliette runs afoul of good opinion with her inability to assimilate in the new community in which she finds herself, surrounded by 'special' people who can relate to isolation and discrimination, it's important to understand there is no way she could.


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