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Monday, December 28, 2015

As 2015 Comes To An End...

Well it's that time of the year again... December is coming to a close and I lament the fact I haven't read anywhere near as many books as I wanted to and that my To-Read pile has grown to dire heights.

I read 21 books this year, some of which I never got to write reviews for including Every Word, the final in the Mycroft and Watts series by Ellie Marney which I adored; Out of Control by Sarah Alderson, which I scrambled for after loving Conspiracy Girl; One True Thing by Nicola Hayes as I tick off all the fab Aussie YA on offer; and Storm and Spark in Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, featuring the delicious Merrick brothers!

So out of those 21, the question is, what did I love the most? Well I was able to narrow it down to three and funnily enough, one is OzYA, another is US, and the third is UK. These were amazing and I highly recommend you read them all. Click on the covers for the links to my reviews.

2015 Faves!

This was my 6th year of blogging and the only thing I love more than reading all the incredible YA lit that is produced, is being part of the amazing community. I've been rather absent this year, particularly in the last 6 months but I have been so proud of watching how everyone has come together in support of the LoveOzYA movement and those who continue to spread the OzYA love. It warms my heart every time I see a shout-out. Check out the hashtag #loveozya on all platforms!

I also joined the bookstagraming crowd which has been super fun. I've included a sample video below with some of my pics. Come follow me at @thetalescompendium

There were so many exciting books released this year and evidently, I didn't get to most of those on my TBR. But with this sadness comes the excitement that I always get through a rather large portion of my yearly tally in January. So with that in mind, I have set aside part of the pile to tackle throughout January. 

I'd love to hear what your favourite reads of 2015 were and what you can't wait to tick off your TBR in 2016. Leave a comment below! No matter how large my pile is, I'm always looking for new stuff to add to it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

Title: I'll Give You The Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson

Release Date: 2nd April 2015

My Rating: 5/5

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close - until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don't realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world. 

In A Nutshell:
I absolutely adored I'll Give You The Sun! I just want to wrap my arms around it and curl up in a hammock by the beach and let Jude and Noah’s story swirl around my head while waves crash around me.

My Review:
Oh my gosh, this book! I just want to wrap my arms around it and curl up in a hammock by the beach and let Jude and Noah’s story swirl around my head while waves crash around me.

I’ll Give You The Sun is told from alternating perspectives – Noah, aged thirteen, and Jude, his twin sister, when they are sixteen. Thirteen-year-old Noah is quirky and artistic and lives in a world of his own. He doesn’t fit in with the kids at school who are interested in surfing and girls and he is constantly bullied. There is a ray of hope when Noah has the possibility of joining a prestigious art school and a potential new friend arrives in town for the summer who is just as ‘odd’ as Noah. At thirteen, Jude loves to surf and take risks and has plenty of friends. She’s more interested in clothes and makeup than trying out for the art school that she also has potential for and is always arguing with their mother. Jude wonders why her twin can’t just be ‘normal’ yet they still share a special connection and are there for each other.

Fast forward three years and the twins have essentially swapped personalities. Noah has friends and likes to party and take risks. Jude is withdrawn, shuts everyone out and spends most of her time speaking to the spirit of their dead grandmother. The once unbreakable bond between the twins has fizzled and they rarely say more than two words to each other. It is fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, to see how three years can change a person.

I often find novels that swap between different times to be a bit confusing but I didn’t have that problem with I’ll Give You The Sun. As the year and the perspective alternatives, Jude and Noah’s stories are revealed. We see Noah’s side of the story from three years ago, and Jude’s in present day. There are breadcrumbs throughout and vital information is shared which correlates with what is revealed in the following chapter. This is done skilfully so that by the end of the novel, we have a complete picture of what has happened over the course of three years and why Jude and Noah have ended up as virtual strangers.

At thirteen, Noah begins to spread his wings only to be squashed. At sixteen, Jude starts to come out of her self-imposed shell. What happened in between?  Over the three years, both deal with multiple things that are hard enough to deal with one at a time, let alone all at once. As a reader you just want them to get through their pain and come out the other end, happy and reinvigorated with a passion for the things they love. I’ll Give You The Sun can be funny and uplifting, heartbreaking and hopeful as Noah and Jude battle the pain, guilt and secrets that have plagued them over the years and extinguished what once made them magical and unique in their own ways. As you uncover their story, you will fall in love with them.

I loved Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere. But I absolutely adored I’ll Give You The Sun. Jandy Nelson is an auto-buy author for me and I can’t wait to see what she gives us next.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

Title: Conspiracy Girl
Author: Sarah Alderson

Release Date: 12th February 2015

My Rating: 5/5

Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings.
There was only one survivor – sixteen year-old Nic Preston.

Now eighteen, Nic is trying hard to rebuild her life. But then one night her high-security apartment is broken into. It seems the killers are back to finish the job.

Finn Carter – hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. He’s the reason her mother’s murderers walked free. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best chance of staying alive is by staying close to Finn.

And the closer they get to the truth, and to each other, the greater the danger becomes.

In a Nutshell:
Conspiracy Girl is a thrilling mystery full of suspense that had me speed-reading from the first page.

My Review:
Conspiracy Girl is a thrilling mystery full of suspense that had me speed-reading from the first page. Once again, I made the mistake of starting chapter one just before I went to bed and wasn’t able to put it down until I finished the whole book in the early hours of the following day. 

Nic Preston is paranoid, but with good reason. After her mother and stepsister were murdered in a home invasion, the killers were never brought to justice. Nic has spent the last two years constantly looking over her shoulder, never feeling safe, even with the top security systems utilized and taking every precaution. She is strong and resilient but has built up a fortress around herself, not just literally but emotionally, to make sure she never feels powerless and vulnerable again. But when her security system is compromised and the FBI’s ability to protect her is questioned, it looks like the worst moment of Nic’s life is set to repeat itself. 

Enter Finn, gorgeous computer hacker and seeker of justice who is asked to ‘babysit’ Nic while the FBI look for the mole in their organisation. Finn has an interesting catalogue of skills and also a tragic past of his own, one, much to Nic’s annoyance, which has also crossed paths with her own. Battling her constant fear and survivors guilt, Nic has to learn to trust again if she and Finn have any chance of escaping the people on their tail, who somehow keep managing to find them as they go on the run, dodging bullets across country while searching for answers. 

I can tell you now, if I had assassins after me, I’d want Finn by my side! Don’t get me wrong, Nic isn’t useless at protecting herself, she’s just in way over her head! Finn is super protective of Nic and willing to do anything to keep her safe, and the more that’s revealed about him, the more you fall in love with him. There’s also some killer sexual tension thrown in to heat things up and complicate the situation! 

Conspiracy Girl was a total page-turner and I can’t wait to get my hands on another Sarah Alderson book! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recent Reads // Mini Reviews

I've read a few books recently but upon finishing them I've found that I haven't really known what to make of them or how to articulate my jumbled thoughts. It's not that I didn't like them (I read each in a single sitting), but I was left not really having any residual feelings that I could put into a full review. So instead, I've written up a few comments about each.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Release Date: 6 January 2015
My Rating: 4/5

What can I say about Violet and Finch? Their story was lovely but oh-so heartbreaking.

I like that mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, is written with such honesty because I get so frustrated when mental illness is not seen as legitimate – just because they doesn’t manifest physically does not mean they are not real or any less deadly than those that you can see. But my god, All the Bright Places reached into my chest, squeezed my heart and wrenched it out.

I loved Violet's creativity and her online magazine ideas (which can now actually be found online) and I loved that Finch's character wasn’t a cliché. His zest for life was so catchy and joyful but seriously heartbreaking when you think of how low he must go to be the total opposite of it with his bipolar.

WARNING: You will need tissues. Lots of them.

"The problem with people is they forget that most of the time, it's the small things that count" 

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Release Date: 16th September 2015
My Rating:


I don’t really know what to say about Dumplin’. Maybe it’s a little too close for comfort with my own insecurities but really, for me, it just didn’t hit the mark.

I agree that Willowdean's appearance is no one’s business but her own and that no one has a right to judge her on her looks. However, for all her outspoken rants and not caring what anyone else thinks, she herself isn’t actually happy or comfortable in her own skin. So the way I viewed the story was that all the focus on being body-positive throughout the book was totally undone at the end.

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Release Date: 4th August 2015
My Rating: 4/5

Never Always Sometimes was a light, fun read which I’m sure many people will be able to relate to – I’m pretty sure everyone has fallen for a friend at one point or another!

It’s a lesson in life, love and friendship, and learning some things are meant to be and others are not. There are different kinds of love in this world, none more or less valid than the other.

I really enjoyed reading what Dave and Julia got up to each time they crossed something off their list and seeing how they evolved as they stepped outside their comfort zones. In particular I loved Julia’s erotic math’s poem and the absolutely amazing tree house.

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Release Date: 26th May 2015
My Rating: 4/5

Nowhere But Here is a quick, easy read. It didn’t bowl me over like Pushing the Limits but I still really enjoyed it. It fulfilled all my guilty pleasure expectations and there is nothing wrong with liking those!

I was satisfied to know I was correct at guessing the twist/secret quite early on and even though it wasn’t revealed until the end, it didn’t ruin my reading experience as I was occupied with everything else going on with Oz and Emily. I liked the importance placed on family and loyalty in all it’s forms, and that Emily learnt to understand what it meant to her extended family as she got to know them.

I loved the relationship between Oz and Emily. Both characters were on an even playing field, each bringing something different to the dynamic between them. And they had some seriously steamy make-out scenes between them - Katie McGarry sure knows how to write those! Everyone loves a bad-boy with a motorbike, especially one who recognises he’s fallen for a girl and proves that just because he looks rough and dangerous, doesn’t mean that’s all there is to him.
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