Once Upon a Time V Challenge

This year, I already signed up for the Aussie YA Reading Challenge and I told myself that I would only join one challenge this year so I won’t have a hard time finishing it. But then I saw Chelle’s starting line post for the Once Upon a Time V challenge and I was tempted. Once Upon a Time is a challenge hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. I did the challenge last year and I was able to accomplish what I originally signed up for. Since I read a lot of fantasy anyway, I think it would be a good idea to participate again this year.

Here are the rules:

Rule #1: Have fun.

Rule #2: Have fun.

Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!

Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

Initially, I was only going to do The Journey, which only requires a person to read one book but then I decided to go with what I went for last year – Quest the First.

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

That looks like something I’ll be able to manage. Yay, I’m excited to read the books that will fall under this challenge. Reviews are posted here if you want to check them out. Some of my possibles for this challenge:

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar is a book published in Australia that I read for the The Aussie YA Book Challenge hosted by Nic of Irresistible Reads and Nomes of Inkcrush. I asked a friend to get it for me from Australia but I believe it’s available in ebook format in the US. Find out more from the author’s website. I believe I was interested in this book because Nomes of Inkcrush keeps recommending it.

Here’s the summary from Kirsty Eagar’s website:

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing… and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be free?

Carly dropped out of university (they call it uni in Australia and we call it college over here) because she doesn’t see the point in it. Her father cuts her off and throws her out of the family house so Carly moves to Sydney where she can surf all she wants while maintaining a night shift job in a cafe. I’ve never tried to surf even though I know that it’s possible here in the Philippines. And I’ve never been to Australia either but I didn’t find Raw Blue confusing. Mostly because it’s about Carly and her way of trying to cope with her past by focusing on doing something that she loves, which I believe is a universal thing. I liked how Carly was so passionate about surfing, even going against her parents’ wishes to do what she loves best. She isn’t irresponsible because she’s supporting herself with her job. She’s not much of a social person but without her planning to, she befriends her quirky Dutch neighbor, Hannah, and fifteen-year-old Danny, who’s also a surfer and has a condition called synesthesia. Basically, Danny sees colors in relation to people and things. Such an interesting trait, right? Another person that suddenly just pops into Carly’s life is Ryan, a surfer who manages to be intense and laid back at the same time. I found the way that Ryan speaks, with “mate” thrown into a lot of his sentences, charming.

I am loving the Aussie YA books that have been released recently and I know I’m not the only one. I see people on Twitter asking why some of the Aussie YA books that they want to read aren’t available internationally. I know I keep saying this but I want the same thing for Filipino YA – why can’t local authors produce books like this? This is a book about surfing, yes, but it’s also a contemporary YA novel that has a unique premise. It doesn’t occur in a school setting like other YA novels and the characters are older than usual. Carly is nineteen and Ryan is twenty-six (yay for YA characters in their mid-twenties). Raw Blue is full of emotion but I was never overwhelmed because it’s not all pointless teenage angst. You can feel Carly trying to hold everything together and how hard it is for her when things fall apart. She tries to channel everything that she feels through surfing because that’s her outlet. There aren’t any major changes that happen in Carly’s life throughout the book but Raw Blue is about dealing with the past and moving forward. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA and surfing. I’m now curious about Kirsty Eagar’s other book, Saltwater Vampires.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Forever Young Adult
Irresistible Reads
Inkcrush
Persnickety Snark
The Unread Reader

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

I read Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood as part of the The Aussie YA Book Challenge hosted by Nic of Irresistible Reads and Nomes of Inkcrush. It’s also one of the books that I asked my friend who came from Australia to get for me.

Here’s the summary from Fiona Wood’s website:

Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, a mother with a failing wedding-cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door.

His entire life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things

Six Impossible Things is a loose Cinderella retelling, written from a guy’s perspective. I don’t think I read enough male POV books and I enjoy reading retellings. As if that isn’t enough to convince me to read this, Aussie book bloggers have been raving about this book in their reviews. Dan feels like his life has fallen apart when his parents split because his gay dad suddenly decides to come out of the closet and admit that the family business is also bankrupt. Dan even wants to say “Guys, please, one life-changing shock at a time.” out loud because of all the changes in his life. The only positive thing is he now lives next door to the unattainable one, Estelle. He even transfers to her school. Dan is determined to change his image at his new school, he doesn’t want to be known as geeky and smart anymore and he wants to hang out with the cool crowd. Things don’t go exactly as he planned.

This is such a quirky and fun novel to read, the writing is beautiful and the characters are so distinct. Dan is utterly charming in an offbeat and nerdy way. He’s smart, sensitive and tries to be as honest and good as he can be. Yay for good guys! It was interesting being inside Dan’s head because like I said, I don’t get to read enough books with male protagonists narrating the story. He’s also an introspective type so he’s more quiet than outgoing. I loved that the book showed his weaknesses like fainting whenever he sees or imagines something gross like raw eggs. Instead of being unfavorable, those vulnerabilities actually added to his charm. Even though things don’t work out the way he wanted them to, he did gain a couple of friends along the way and they’re all unique and original, even Howard the dog. The book isn’t all about the romance even if Dan has a major crush on Estelle although the development of their friendship is a major highlight for me. I love that the attics of their houses are connected and they’re the only ones who know about it. This delightful book is about growing up and changing as you learn how to cope and adapt with the problems that life throws your way. I’ve heard that this book already has a US publisher but there’s no set date on when it’s going to be published. If you can order a book from Australia or have someone buy it for you then I highly recommend that you get this one. It’s a great contemporary YA debut and I can’t wait to read more of Fiona Wood’s work. I just have to worry about how I’ll get it when the time comes.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Inkcrushinterview with Fiona Wood
Persnickety Snark
Irresistible Reads
Hey! Teenager of the Year
The Tales Compendium

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Graffiti Moon was my Want Books pick last month. I read this book as part of the The Aussie YA Book Challenge hosted by Nic of Irresistible Reads and Nomes of Inkcrush. It’s also one of the books that I asked my friend who came from Australia to get for me.

Here’s the summary from Cath Crowley’s website:

Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers.

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

I knew from the first few lines of the book that it was going to be a good one. The glowing reviews that I’ve seen from Aussie book bloggers about Graffiti Moon probably has something to do with it too. Told from the alternating points of view of Lucy and Ed, and interspersed with poems from Leo, the whole book occurs in just one night. It gives off the same vibe as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist but while that one focused on music, this one is about art. I admit that I don’t know much about art but that didn’t lessen my appreciation of the book because both Lucy and Ed are quirky, funny and smart in their own way and very easy to relate to. Also, Shadow’s art was described in such an intriguing way to the point that I wanted to see images of his work instead of just visualizing the descriptions. Lucy dreams of meeting Shadow, the graffiti artist, because she admires his work and she feels like she knows him through his art. She has a feeling that he’s nothing like the immature guys that she knows from school. She definitely doesn’t want to celebrate the last night of Year 12 with Ed because they have history and not a very good one at that. They had one disaster of a date that ended with a broken nose, tears and vomit. Not exactly promising, right? Little do they know that they have much more in common than what could be seen on the surface. The secondary characters – their friends Leo, Dylan, Jazz and Daisy – are also fully fleshed out and add interesting and sometimes hilarious situations to the story.

This was a good book to start the new year with. It’s the first book that I finished reading in 2011 and if all of the books that I read within the year are as good as this one, then it’d be an awesome reading year for me. I like how the story unfolded in the span of one incredible night because there really are nights like those – nights when you don’t get any sleep and one crazy thing happens after another. I like how everything came together and how things just made sense. I was rooting for Ed and Lucy right from the start and I wanted them both to have what they wanted. This is the kind of contemporary YA that makes me want to read more from the genre. It’s a lovely story about the lives of young adults on the brink of life-changing situations. Also, would you look at that cover? I think it’s very appropriate to the story. Yay, my Aussie YA reading challenge is off to a good start! I’m sorry that this book isn’t available worldwide because it deserves to be read by more people. I’ve heard that it already has a US publisher but the publication date hasn’t been announced. I’m hoping that Cath Crowley’s other books will also become internationally available because I’m curious about them.

There’s an ebook version of the book over at Borders Australia to anyone who’s interested.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Persnickety Snark – and here’s Adele’s post about the art pieces mentioned in the book
Inkcrush
My Girl Friday
Hey! Teenager of the Year

Three Great YA Bloggers

Initially, I wanted to participate in Adele of Persnickety Snark’s FIVE challenge yesterday. The theme was FIVE great YA bloggers. But since I couldn’t come up with five, I thought I’d post about the three YA bloggers that have most influenced my reading choices for this year.

Angie of Angieville – Angie writes lovely reviews of all the books that she reads and I can’t help but add a book to my wishlist whenever she recommends it. She’s the reason I’ve read so many wonderful books this year (A Certain Slant of Light, Ellen Emerson White’s books and Jane to name a few).

Holly of Book Harbinger – I’m very thankful that Holly decided to start a book blog this year because I wouldn’t have met her otherwise. I’d like to think that we’ve become good friends even though we’ve never met each other in person. I also feel like we have very similar reactions to the books that we read.

Michelle of See Michelle Read – I first discovered Michelle’s blog back when I was still posting on my LiveJournal and I’ve been following her recommendations ever since. She’s the reason I picked up Jaclyn Moriarty’s books (and many more that I fail to remember at the moment).

All three are excellent bloggers and I believe they’re even friends in real life (oh how I wish I could meet all of you in person). They all love YA but they also review books from other genres, which is great for me since I love fantasy. Angie is the reason I fell in love with the urban fantasy genre because of the Kate Daniels series. Whenever each of these girls gives a glowing review of a certain book, I’m immediately curious. More so when all three of them recommend one book like they did with Jane. Another thing I love about them is that they always reply to blog comments, which makes a blog follower feel special. I also feel giddy whenever they read a book that I recommended. So here’s to Angie, Holly and Michelle! More power to you gals.

What about you guys, what are your favorite YA blogs? 🙂

Five Most Anticipated 2011 Titles

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! I know I already have a post up just to greet all of you but I just wanted to say it again. Adele of Persnickety Snark is hosting the FIVE Challenge. Click on the link to learn more about it. Today’s theme is most anticipated 2011 titles. Here are my picks:

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – This is the companion novel to Saving Francesca and has been out in Australia for quite a while (lucky Aussies!) and it was even my Want Books pick back in October. I’ve been hearing good things about it and I have high expectations since I loved Jellicoe Road.

Nightspell by Leah CypessMistwood was in my list of five great debuts so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m looking forward to its companion novel.

The other books in my list don’t even have covers or summaries yet:

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – I can’t wait to read this companion novel to both Graceling and Fire. I have a feeling some of my favorite characters in Graceling will make appearances in this one. I wonder how much has changed in the seven kingdoms after several years have passed.

Love Story by Jennifer Echols – Even though I was disappointed with Forget You, I’m still a fan of Going Too Far so I am hoping that this book will be similar to the latter rather than the former.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – This is the companion novel to the popular Anna and the French Kiss, a wonderful debut that came out this year. Can’t wait to see what Stephanie Perkins will produce next.

That’s it for me, I hope you’re all having a great Christmas Day. 🙂 What are some of your anticipated YA titles in 2011?

Five Great Covers

Adele of Persnickety Snark is hosting the FIVE Challenge. Click on the link to learn more about it. Today’s theme is Great Covers. Click here to include a link of your post in the Mr. Linky. Feast your eyes on the loveliness of these covers:

Pegasus by Robin McKinley (my review) – I fell in love with this cover as soon as I saw it. Robin McKinley got lucky with this one – I think it’s perfect for the story with the girl standing in the middle of the field, looking up at the pegasus soaring in the sky.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (my review) – I like the whimsical look of this cover and how it’s suited for a fantasy book.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (my review) – I think this cover is pretty unique, two teenagers leaning out the windows of their vintage cars to kiss in the rain. What’s great about it is this is an actual scene in the book.

Jane by April Lindner (my review) – this one is also in my Five Great Debuts list. Jane’s outfit in the cover suits her personality in the story. I also like how the bright pink contrasts with the gray of the rest of the cover.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Aussie edition) – I haven’t read this one but I’m really curious since it looks like an appropriate read for the holiday season. I really want the Aussie cover! Too bad it’s out of stock when I asked my friend in Australia to get it for me. I hope it becomes available internationally in the future.

Those are my favorite covers for this year, what are yours?

Five Great Debuts

Adele of Persnickety Snark is hosting the FIVE Challenge. Click on the link to learn more about it. Today’s theme is Great Debuts and you can see Adele’s picks here. There have been so many good debut novels this year so I decided to participate in today’s challenge. Here’s my list:

Mistwood by Leah Cypess (my review) – This debut is recommended for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner. SOLD! It didn’t disappoint – it has notable characters and a plot full of intrigue that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (my review) – I’m so glad that this YA novel by a Filipino author has a UK publisher. It makes it easier for me to recommend it since it’s available internationally. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one because I could relate to the Filipino aspects of the novel. It’s also such a heartwarming story about friendship and family.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow (my review) – A Russian-flavored fantasy about a girl who struggles to make her way into the world. Erin Bow’s lyrical writing makes this book a perfect read for fans of fairy tale-like stories. This book is surprisingly complex and bittersweet, you can’t help but cheer Plain Kate on through her adventures.

Jane by April Lindner (my review) – I should be thankful to Jane because it made me read Jane Eyre. I wouldn’t have read the original story by Charlotte Bronte if my curiosity wasn’t piqued by the retelling. Jane is a faithful retelling that would appeal to everyone who enjoys a good romantic story, regardless of whether they’ve read Jane Eyre or not.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (my review) – No surprise here, this book has been making waves in the blogosphere. It has even been recommended several times by YA author John Green. It has a swoon-worthy male lead, a very realistic development of a love story and is set in one of the most romantic cities in the world – Paris. What more could you ask for?

That’s it for my picks. How about you, what 2010 debut novels would make it to your list?

Aussie YA Reading Challenge

I haven’t signed up for any challenges for next year but since I plan on reading a couple of Aussie YA books, I thought I might as well sign up for this one. The Aussie YA Book Challenge is hosted by Nic of Irresistible Reads and Nomes of Inkcrush. Click on the link to learn more about it. The rules of the challenge are:

Australian participants – Read at least 12 young adult books by Australian authors from 1st January, 2011 to 31st December, 2011.

International participants – Read at least 6 young adult books by Australian authors from 1st January, 2011 to 31st December, 2011.

They can be old or new titles, however no re-reads. It is open to everyone. You don’t have to be a blogger but you MUST POST A REVIEW.

I’m planning to read the following books for this challenge:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Good Oil by Laura Buzo

I’ve had my copy of The Book Thief since 2007 and I still haven’t read it! I know that it’s really good, I’ve seen so many glowing reviews so I don’t understand why I haven’t picked it up. I enjoyed reading Saving Francesca so I can’t wait to read The Piper’s Son. I’m so glad it’s going to be internationally available soon. I will be getting copies of the last four books in the list from a friend who’s coming home from Australia. Yay, so excited to get them. Aussie books are really expensive but at least I won’t have to pay for shipping.

That’s it for my starting post for this challenge. What about you, any Aussie titles that you’re planning to read next year?