Review – Replica

finalreplica_coverrevealgifTitle                  Replica (Part One – Lyra)
Author             Lauren Oliver
Publisher        HarperCollins
Source              NetGalley
Genre               Science Fiction

Lyra is not human. She’s a Replica. Made at The Haven, Lyra’s existence is an endless cycle of tests, medical procedures and cold, harsh rooms. There are no surprises, only structure and routine.

Until, there is not. Lyra’s world changes irrevocably and she must adapt.

I enjoyed Lyra’s story though the ending left me looking for some part of the book I must have missed. It didn’t seem complete. A quick search online told me that was indeed the case. Replica is a two part book – a flip book. One is Lyra’s story and the other is Gemma’s. Gemma is human and I can see how her story would be as interesting as Lyra’s. I just haven’t read it yet.

So this review is based on only half the book. Do I want to read the other half? Yes, though to be honest I enjoyed the viewpoint of Lyra and I want more from her perspective. Oliver delivers Lyra’s narrative as one that is innocent and naive yet perceptive. Lyra’s interpretations of the world are both joyful and heartbreaking.

Replica is an intriguing reflection of how much humanity is learnt and how much is ingrained in our DNA.

Try Replica if you liked Delirium or State of Grace.

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Review – A Promise of Fire

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Title                           A Promise of Fire
Author                       Amanda Bouchet
Publisher                  Hachette Australia
Source                     NetGalley
Genre                       Fantasy Romance

A promise of fire? There certainly was – but more on the smokey stuff soon.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet is a fantasy romance set in a time where warlords made empires and Greek gods intervened at will.

Cat ran away with the circus. For the pat eight years it’s been the perfect place to hide – until warlord Beta Sinta discovers her circus skills make her royally useful. She also has a few other tricks up her sleeve. Forced out of the circus, cat is faced with continuous peril as she is taken to the Sintain Palace. Along the way, Cat must decide if she should use her powers to save herself and expose herself to the deadliest enemy in the world.
Fun, fast and full of action, A Promise of Fire delivers an entertaining read that I devoured in two days. The lead players are well-crafted and Cat is a durable creature who reminds me a little of Celaena Sardothian. She has sass, she has spunk and is more ferocious than the warlord’s team combined.

With energy like that it’s not surprise there is fire in this story. And I’m talking smokey, hot, sexy fire. As in, burn the house down fiery stuff.

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The sparks in this book were not what I was expecting from a YA book and to be honest – this is NOT YA. I don’t care how old the MC is.

The tension between Cat and Beta Sinta builds well and Beta Sinta’s interests and emotions are conveyed well. She is determined not to give in to her physical attraction to him. Her constant thoughts about his rippling muscles became somewhat repetitive on their journey to the Palace.
What didn’t sit well with me was the abuse and the power struggle between Cat and Beta Sinta. Falling in love (lust?) with your kidnapper who keeps you tied up is a little too Stockholm Syndrome for my liking.
Aside from that, the unfolding events surrounding her time with Team Beta and the myriad of enemies now pursuing Cat make for an exciting, fast-paced read.

Try this if you liked Ice like Fire or Mortal Heart and enjoy your glasses steaming up while you read.

I Heart Aussie YA #4 + Author Interview

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Title                    Measuring Up
Author               GJ Stroud
Publisher           Scribe
Genre                 YA Contemporary

Goodreads blurb:
Jonah’s life has been like riding the perfect wave—the wonderfully simple routine of school, partying, and surfing with his friends. With the stress of his senior year looming, he realizes all of that is about to change. Rattled by the fear that he is destined to live in the shadow of his legendary older brother, Link, Jonah’s self-confidence begins to waver, along with his mission to lose his virginity before turning 18. Just when he has decided things couldn’t get any more complicated, Link drops a bombshell on his unsuspecting family. Despite these overwhelming transitions, Jonah soon discovers that life has a funny way of sorting out the big issues from the small, and that the answers he’s looking for may be right in front of him. Frank and funny, this coming-of-age novel is a definitive tale of family, friendship, and the pressures of adolescence.

Measuring Up is written by the talented GJ Stroud. Full disclosure: Gab is also a good writing buddy of mine and one of my fellow hosts over at The Print Posse.
Measuring Up is an honest and witty look at growing up under the shadow of a small town mindset. The writing is sharp and at times, brutally honest. The MC, Jonah, is likable and relatable as he stumbles through the transition from larakin teen surfer into a young adult.

In Measuring Up, Stroud explores the perpetual struggle of youth in determining the Big Things in life from The Little Things. Stroud’s writing style is refreshing. No condescending stereotypes of teenagers, just real kids who might have sat next to you at school during lunchtime.

The Australian setting fits seamlessly into the story and is a gentle reminder of the different mindsets still prevalent in small towns. Measuring Up will have youth nodding in agreement and inspire a nostalgic smile in adults.

Try Measuring Up if you liked Puberty Blues,  The Flywheel or The Story of Tom Brennan.

GJ Stroud

GJ Stroud

Hi Gab, welcome to A Novel Indulgence. Tell me, where did the inspiration for Measuring Up come from?

There were two key things that inspired my ideas for Measuring Up. The first was a story my friend told me about how her sister calls her “Sib” short for ‘Sibling’ because before my friend was born, her mum told Big Sister that she was going to have a sibling and Big Sister was so intrigued by the word that she referred to the baby as Sibling forevermore! So my friend got “Sib” as a family nickname. That got me thinking about my own family – I’m the youngest. My eldest sister always always calls me Kiddo. There’s so much power in names. I explore that in Measuring Up.

The other idea came from my experience teaching Year 7. A girl from my Homeroom came to me after one lunch time of being harassed by Year 7 boys calling her ‘flat chested’. When I relayed the story to my sister she said “It’s so easy for boys because nobody can see their… you know – penis. So, we can’t call them “shorty” or “stumpy” – but for girls everyone can see their chest development. It’s not fair.” I thought about what this means for men and boys and asked myself – what would happen if a boy had a rapid and obvious transition into manhood? Just like girls, he would feel uncomfortable, awkward and possibly embarrassed. I explore this discomfort and the feeling of scrutiny throughout Measuring Up but it’s best reflected in the scene where Mel says to Jonah (the MC) “It’s like you got your first bra and your period all on the same day!”

The voice of your MC, Jonah, was authentic as a teenage boy. How did you prepare for writing from a perspective that could not be based on personal experience?

I think all my writing comes from something that’s beyond gender and age and all that… I like considering the human experience. What feelings and experiences do we share? Having said that, it was important that I really nailed the voice of Jonah. So, I did a lot of eavesdropping and note taking. And I befriended a guy around Jonah’s age at our local little supermarket. He worked in the deli and I would order a lot of ham and olives and soft cheeses just so I could interact with him and observe him. I remember watching him one day being torn between serving an old lady who had waited a long time and a gorgeous girl who had just walked in. The pain on his face was obvious!

Without spoiling the ending, some threads are tied and others are left open. As a writer, was there pressure to resolve all the story arcs?

Yes. My editor and publisher kept saying to me – is this story finished?

How long did the writing process take? 

Three years. Two years to draft and write and one year to edit and polish for publication. That included working full time and all the other stuff that life throws at you when you’re trying to write a book!

Were there any times when you nearly gave up on the project?

Yep. Heaps. But my dear friend Jess pushed, prompted, encouraged, shoved, prodded and just generally bullied me until the job was done.

You thanked Varuna The Writers’ House, what stage was your story at when you did your residency there?

My story was at a drafty draft stage. I didn’t know where it was going, I just had these great characters and the voice was strong and the words were flowing. I was wandering around inside my story while I was at Varuna. It was a bit special!

What processes did you undergo at Varuna The Writers’ House?

I was part of a residency and I was mentored each day by the mighty Peter Bishop who has worked with some of Australia’s best writers. This was an hour each day talking with someone who loved my story as much as I did. Peter has this way of making you think about things in new and unusual ways. He’s the kind of guy who if you gave him a jumper, he’d turn it inside out and look at the cuff of the sleeve and say “I wonder what the sheep was feeling when she grew this wool?” He asks you things that make you feel uncomfortable – things like “What’s the heartland of your story?” or “How will you know that your story is told?” or “Where are you in this story?” Conversations with Peter are both nourishing and challenging.
And each evening I met with the other writers and we talked, shared our stories, listened and sort of workshopped ideas together. There’s something magic that happens at Varuna and I’m sure the spirit of Eleanor Dark hovers in that lounge room helping writers to connect in very deep and personal ways.

How did you land a publication deal?

Just submitted it to Scribe. Simple as that. I was also going to submit it for the Text YA prize. Scribe rang me and said “Please don’t submit to Text.” It was the best day ever! I was pregnant and teaching full time and I was at school when I got the call from Scribe. I walked back into the staff room and clambered my big pregnant body onto the staffroom table and just stood there like a gold medal Olympian up on the dais. I was so darn proud of myself. Everyone thought I’d finally lost my mind completely.

Mrs Finlay – did you ever have a teacher like her?

*smile* I worked with a teacher like Ms Finlay. She was amazeballs.

What’s next for GJ Stroud?

You tell me and we’ll both know! I’ve got another YA fiction that’s looking for a home. Its pathway to publication has not been as straightforward as Measuring Up’s but I have confidence that the Universe will help that story find it’s place.

I’ll be at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival later this year as a guest on their 555 Roadshow AND at the Festival proper. That’s like a big WHOA moment for me.

I’m working on a novel about Post-Natal depression too – for adults of course. I blog regularly on my website, write freelance for some mags and journals. And endless other stories are constantly squirming inside me and vying for my attention.
I guess it’s just watch this space for me right now. I’m open to anything!

A huge thank you to Gab for joining me on ANI. Readers can visit GJ Stroud’s Goodreads page or head over to her blog to check out more of what she’s been up to.

Review – Withering Rose

 

Withering Rose cover

Title                      Withering Rose
Author                  Kaitlyn Davis
Source                  NetGalley
Genre                   YA Fantasy/Retelling

Withering Rose is the second book in the Once Upon a Curse series by Kaitlyn Davis and is a re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast. While the framework of the timeless fairytale is evident, the setting of Withering Rose allows Davis to add a range of new complications to the storyline.

Book One in the series, Gathering Frost, was a loose interpretation of Snow White and book three continues with the fairytale theme. Strong heroines, swoon-worthy heroes with a heart of gold, and the all important curse ensures magic wielders have a struggle on their hands.

The premise for this book is interesting. A fantasy medieval-like world with magic at its heart has literally collided with modern-day Earth. The people from the two worlds struggle to reconcile their belief in magic. It is a clash of worlds in an almost post-apocalyptic landscape. Monarchs with magic verse armies with ammunition.

In Withering Rose, the curse on Omorose’s magic is a killer and if that’s not hard enough, she and her father are hiding in plain sight in a military command centre. Suppressing her magic is almost as consuming as dealing with the snarky kids in her class. An opportunity for escape presents itself and Omorose finds herself in the Kingdom of the Beast.

Knowledge of the fairytale gives the reader a sense of expectation about the relationship between Omorose and the Beast. While there are the anticipated elements to the story, there are still many unknowns that kept me hooked until the end.

In the children’s story, a witch casts a spell and the beast has until the last petal falls from an enchanted rose to break the curse. This curse, and the process of the rose withering away, is re-imagined in a clever way. This story also avoids the Stockholm Syndrome that so many versions of Beauty and the Beast rely on.

It does, to my delight, stay faithful to the inclusion of the library.

This was a good read. Both book one and two were an enjoyable adventure through a chaotic new world. Book three, Chasing Midnight, is scheduled for release in 2017 and until then, I’m going to work my way through Kaitlyn Davis’ back catalogue.

I Heart Aussie YA #3

I am featuring Australian YA books so I can convince teens of Australia to give them a go. Heck, readers don’t have to be teens – or even Australian for that matter.

Title:  Life In Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Melissa Keil’s Life In Outer Space is one of my favourite Aussie YA books. I loved this book so much that I’m already imagining myself going back for a re-read. I finished reading it just before bed but didn’t want to go to sleep and lose all the ‘warm and fuzzies’ it gave me.

Keil’s writing makes every situation real – I kept pausing throughout the book to reflect on all the people I know who could actually be those characters.

Not being a boy, I don’t really know how accurate Sam’s POV narration was but to my limited expertise he was spot on. His teenage male cluelessness about girls was perfect. Camilla’s cool charm and self-assuredness made me adore her and wish I could have been her when I was at school.

This book made me laugh – not something I do very often whilst reading. It has some of the funniest lines I’ve ever read. Keil’s writing style is delightfully funny and absolutely real.

Title:    The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
Author:  Melissa Keil
Publisher:  Hardie Grant Egmont
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

The familiarity of Keil’s characters quickly transported me. These were characters I’m certain have walked through my life at some stage. Keil has captured the timeless struggle of those finishing school and casting their eyes towards the next great life adventure. The excitement and dread of life irrevocably changing regardless of whether or not you want it to.

Like Life in Outer Space, TIAoCG was an easy read. It was like snuggling up in your favourite trackies – warm, comfy and safe. It felt as though my teenage years were giving me a hug.

This second offering proves she is an author with flair and one whose career I will be following with anticipation.

Try these books if you liked Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell or Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

I Heart Aussie YA #2

I am featuring Australian YA books so I can convince teens of Australia to give them a go. Heck, readers don’t have to be teens – or even Australian for that matter.

Title                             Liberated (Book three in The Guardians Series)
Author                        MJ Stevens
Publisher                   Self Published

Liberated_CoverFront_Proof2

Last Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Liberated by MJ Stevens in exchange for an honest review. Aside from the joy of receiving books in the mail (is there anything better?) I was keen to discover what fate would befall Mellea in this final instalment of The Guardian Series.

I do adore stories about the average girl being swept into a royal world. There’s excitement, there’s nerves, there’s passion – what’s not to love? Books one and two in this series gave all that and hooked me in.

Similarities exist between MJ Stevens’ The Guardian Series and Marrisa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. Both explore the reactions of society to those whose bodies have been mechanically altered to be stronger, faster, better. In the Lunar Chronicles, these people are called cyborgs. In The Guardian Series, they are MECHS. Both are shunned by society but, unlike Myer’s lead, Cinder, Stevens’ central protagonist in Mellea – an everyday small town girl who is thrust into the prestigious world of the ruling elite.

The final book in the series, Liberated, focuses on the building conflict between the MECHS, the Guardians and the ever changing, ever evil, Doctor. The people of Poridos are losing faith in the Guardians’ ability to protect them from the MECHS. Villages are being wiped out and confidence in the ruling elite is at an all time low. Threats on the Guardian’s lives are happening all to often. Mellea must navigate this new climate all the while learning how to be part of the Successor’s world.

The book explores the dangers of giving religious extremists a voice, acceptance and intolerance and of course, trying to find your place in the world. It’s a strong end to the series. It answers all the questions and takes some unexpected turns. The only area in this book that didn’t live up to the previous two was the development of the relationship between Mellea and Leo. I loved in the first two books how their trust in each other grew and the steps they took back and forth towards a caring relationship. In Liberated, the relationship took second place to all the drama and action the Guardians were facing. Okay, that may seem like a real-life reasonable thing to happen but I wanted to experience how that could relationship grow further. I wanted to see how Leo continued to struggle with his image, his role as a Successor and work out how to be a boyfriend. I admit it – I wanted more swoon!

The verdict? This makes the list of Aussie YA to check out. If you haven’t already, add the first book in the series, Bound, to your TBR.

Try this book if you liked The Selection Series and the Lunar Chronicles.

I Heart Aussie YA # 1

I am featuring Australian YA books so I can convince teens of Australia to give them a go. Heck, readers don’t have to be teens – or even Australian for that matter.

Title                                             State of Grace
Author                                         Hilary Badger
Publisher                                    Hardie Grant Egmont
Genre                                          YA Dystopia

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There’s something exciting about delving into a novel you have know nothing about. State of Grace by Hilary Badger is published in Australia by Hardie Grant Egmont. That and the gorgeous launch party pics posted on the HGE twitter feed were all I had to go on. Knowing HGE are responsible for the publication of works such as Melissa’s Kiel’s Life in Outer Space and Erin Gough’s The Flywheel, I knew there had to be something special about it.

And there is. It is different. Part dystoian, part utopian, State of Grace explores perceptions of happiness and the lengths we will go to ensure a life of joy. Straight away, we are thrust into the world of Wren, where everything is completely perfect, dotly if you will. But why is it perfect? Why does it need to be? What is the perfection and joy hiding? These are the questions that kept me enthralled.

While the themes explored are certainly not new, they embrace issues the reader can connect with at any age. And though the issues are intense ones, it is not an intense read. In fact, there is much joy and beauty between the pages.

Read more about State of Grace on the Goodreads page.

Review and Author Interview – Isla’s Inheritance

I’ve finally read Isla’s Inheritance and not only do I have my review to share, I also have an interview with the author and a giveaway. 

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Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

Genre: Young adult urban fantasy

Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Release date: 9 October 2014

Summary from Goodreads:

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

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My thoughts:

Isla’s Inheritance is an urban fantasy coming of age story about Isla, a girl who’s family heritage turns out to be more complicated than most.

I’ve been hanging out to read this one and was interested to see how the Aussie capital would fair as backdrop for a fantasy story. Page easily made Canberra as plausible a place as anywhere for a fae story. The characters connected and the dynamics of the fae world were intriguing. I have picked a ‘team’ and really hope that ‘my’ side wins later in the series. I’m a Dominic fan (rather than Jack) and hope to see his character develop more in book two.

This was an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to book two.

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Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’

Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?

It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.

Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉

Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!

I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?

Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!

The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.

Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?

I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.

Where in Australia are the books set?

They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.

It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

Giveaway!

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