Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

I was introduced to Kirsty Eagar’s beautiful writing through Raw Blue, which I read and loved way back in 2011. Wowza, I didn’t know it’s been that long! I was pretty excited when I found out that she has a new book this year and with such a bright and fun cover too. I saw Aussie bloggers raving about Summer Skin, and I knew that I needed to have my own copy sooner rather than later. Thankfully, Book Depository now has stocks of some Aussie titles and I was able to order Summer Skin from their store. I couldn’t resist reading it as soon as my copy arrived. I was reminded of how good Aussie fiction is, and now I want to read ALL THE BOOKS.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Summer SkinJess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold… and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable?

It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

It was a good thing I started reading Summer Skin just as the weekend started because I was engrossed from start to finish. I stayed up way too late (or too early depending on your definition) on a Friday night to read it. I would have gobbled it up in one go if I didn’t have plans to go out with a friend. As it is, I devoured it as fast as I can. I’m going to try and be coherent in this review, but I basically just want to say, GO FORTH AND READ THIS BOOK. Summer Skin is the kind of book that makes me want to go back in time so I can give it to my teenage self. I think it would have changed my life back then. The Aussie college experience described in this is different from my own experience in the Philippines in a lot of ways, but strangely similar in certain aspects, especially in the emotions involved. Like the feeling of having more independence than you had in high school, without the responsibility that comes with being an adult in the workforce. And also trying to make sense of things but feeling clueless. I felt that Kirsty Eagar did an amazing job of describing the crazy roller coaster ride of college days, when the highs were so high and the lows were so low.

Jess intrigued me from the first scene. I thought she and her girlfriends were all awesome. I kept wanting to cheer them on, YOU GO GIRLS. The four of them have such distinct and varied personalities, and it was fun to see how they balanced each other out. I felt that they have just the right mix of flaws and strengths for teenage girls. They were far from perfect and they made mistakes, but they also tried to learn as much as they can from those mistakes. And they showed their strengths in ways that suited their personalities. They’re in that stage of their lives where they’re still trying to figure things out, and they’re starting to gain more awareness about themselves. It was helpful that all throughout that process, they have each others’ backs. It’s always a pleasure to read about strong female friendships because that’s always something that I would be able to relate to. I met some of the best friends that I have during college, and I can’t imagine life without them.

It’s obvious from the book’s summary that Summer Skin has romance in it, and I thought it was very well-written. I seriously could not get enough of Jess and Mitch! I loved all of their interactions, and I kept waiting for scenes that had the two of them together. I’m normally not a fan of drama in a romance but everything that Jess and Mitch went through felt necessary. They needed to experience all of it to grow and develop both individually and as a couple. I wouldn’t call their romance slow burn because sparks fly the moment they meet and they do act on it, but the depth in their relationship is earned the hard way. Also, I thought it was really cute that their family and friends were invested in their relationship. One of my favorite scenes was Jess and Mitch’s brother trying to get to know each other better. The adults in this novel were pretty great, they treated the younger characters with respect – giving advice whenever necessary but ultimately letting Jess and Mitch make their own choices.

As an aside, there’s a lot of music mentioned in the novel and while there isn’t a playlist found at the end, it can be found here. Summer Skin is the kind of book that you would hug to yourself after you turn the last page. I have a feeling I’d be sorely tempted to reread this sooner rather that later. Definitely one of my best reads in 2016, I’ve already started book pushing this to all my reader friends. Immensely readable, Summer Skin deserves to be read by anyone interested in realistic fiction about college experiences. I will be anxiously waiting for Kirsty Eagar’s next novel.

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Ten Aussie YA Books I Love But Feel Like I Haven’t Talked About In A While

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is books we’ve loved but we haven’t talked about in a while. I’m choosing to focus on Aussie YA in my post because I recently read Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar and was blown away by how good it was – I’m not making any promises but I’ll try to review it soon. Anyway, that reading experience reminded me of how awesome Aussie YA is so I want to revisit some of the titles I fell in love with. If you haven’t given YA written by authors from down under, you should start with these books:

Contemporary:
Jellicoe Road Australian cover for The Piper's Son Raw Blue UK Graffiti Moon Wildlife - US cover All I Ever Wanted

Specfic:
Touchstone Trilogy Illuminae Sabriel

Historical fiction:
The Book Thief - UK

Have you read any Aussie YA books that you’d like to recommend? I really don’t know why I haven’t been reading more Aussie YA lately, when I’ve been hearing good things about a lot of them. I have a couple of books in my TBR pile and I should really try to bump them up:

LoveOzYA - March 22, 2016

Meet Up with Aussie YA author, Pip Harry

Last Saturday, I met up with Aussie YA author Pip Harry for brunch. I’ve been meaning to blog about our meet up but have been busy with work so I haven’t gotten around to it until now. First, I have to thank another Aussie YA author, Kirsty Eagar, for helping Pip and I connect. I wouldn’t have known that Pip has moved to Singapore if Kirsty hadn’t mentioned it! (As an aside, I’m trying to be patient while waiting for my order of Kirsty’s latest book Summer Skin, I hope it arrives soon.)

Pip and I decided to meet at one of PS Cafe’s branches, she took a pic of the place and posted it here. While I took a shot of the food that I had and the copy of I’ll Tell You Mine that Pip generously gave me, uploaded here. I told her that Filipino YA isn’t as well-developed as Aussie YA so I gave her some Filipino romance instead. We both forgot to take a pic together though!

Pip Harry's signature

We started chatting away the moment I sat down and we barely came up for air. We talked about books, life, and everything in between. We discussed Aussie YA books, of course. Who are the authors we loved, and which titles we’re both looking forward to reading. Some of the authors we talked about: Kirsty Eagar, Melina Marchetta, Vikki Wakefield, Fiona Wood, Justine Larbalestier, Melissa Keil, Ellie Marney, Amie Kaufman, and so many others. She said the community of Aussie YA authors is such a tight-knit and supportive group, which I thought was so nice. I mentioned that the way she describes that community seems similar to how the Filipino romance is developing now. And I also mentioned that I wish that Filipino YA would grow just like Aussie YA did. I also remember she asked me how I first got into reading Aussie YA, so I mentioned book bloggers who got me into it like Nomes and Maggie and a couple of others who have gone on hiatus. I can’t even remember who first recommended it but Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road was my gateway book into Aussie YA. Meeting Pip made me realize that I haven’t been reading that much Aussie YA books lately, which is a shame because I have more than a few of them on my TBR pile. I will try to bump them up! Aside from books, we also chatted about random things about living in Singapore, the Philippines and Australia.

Good food, great conversation and a personalized copy of a book that I’m looking forward to reading… Makes for a fun Saturday, right? 🙂 I hope this wouldn’t be the one and only time that Pip and I would get to meet.

Book Haul: Vikki Wakefield

A few weeks ago, I posted about two Aussie YA titles that will be published in the US. Vikki Wakefield contacted me because of that post and generously offered to send me copies of her two books, all the way from Australia. I thought All I Ever Wanted was a great read and it was in my best of 2013 list. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her two other titles so I was more than happy to receive copies of them. It totally made my day when the packaged arrived:

From Vikki Wakefield

Aussie snail mail

From Vikki Wakefield - Inbetween Days, Friday Brown

Beautiful Aussie editions

From Vikki Wakefield - signature

Aww signed and personalized

Receiving signed copies of books from an author never gets old. It always feels like a special treat! These two books look even better in person. I think the covers are pretty. And I’ve always liked the standard paperback size of Aussie editions. I can’t wait to dive into these. Thank you so much, Vikki! 😀

Cover News: Cloudwish and In-between Days

I know I just did a cover reveal post yesterday and here I am, doing another cover-related post. But I just wanted to share the news about two Aussie YA novels that I’ve been looking forward to reading: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood and In-between Days by Vikki Wakefield. I found out yesterday that both of them will be published in the US (and will therefore be readily available internationally)! This is exciting news because I’ve previously enjoyed reading books from these two authors (my reviews of Six Impossible Things, Wildlife and All I Ever Wanted). I also think both covers look pretty, the type of covers that would encourage me to pick up the book even if I don’t know anything about the contents.

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I found out about Cloudwish’s cover reveal in this announcement. To be released October 18, 2016.

Cloudwish

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
For Vân Uoc, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn’t even know she’s alive? Pointless.

So Vân Uoc tries to stick to her reality–keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother’s PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably–possibly magically–comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Uoc can’t help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?

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I found out about In-between Days from a tweet from the author. To be released August 30, 2016.

In-between Days

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Jacklin Bates (aka “Jack”) believes the only way to soar beyond her life is to drop out of school and move in with her free-spirited sister, Trudy. But Jack quickly discovers her sister isn’t the same person she used to be. And when Jack loses her job and the boy she loves breaks her heart, she becomes desperate for distractions.

She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Pope, a lost soul camping in the forest behind her house. And then there’s Jeremiah, the boy next door with a kind, listening ear and plenty of troubles of his own. Together, over an endless summer, Jack and Jeremiah fix up the abandoned drive-in theater at the edge of town. But even as a fragile romance builds between them, Jack knows deep down that she can’t stay in limbo forever.

When Jack faces losing Jeremiah, she searches for a way to repair their relationship — beginning with the other broken pieces in her life. Only, sometimes the hardest part of starting over isn’t choosing a path… it’s figuring out how to take that first step forward.

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Now I just need Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar to be published in the US and I’ll be all set! But I heard it’s available from the Book Depository so maybe I should try ordering it from there. Aussie readers are so lucky that these books are readily available to them.

What do you guys think of these covers and book summaries? Do they make you curious about the books? Also just wondering in general, are you familiar with Aussie YA?

Book Haul: August 7

Just a quick book haul post at the start of this long weekend. We’re having a four-day weekend to celebrate Singapore’s 50th year of independence. Happy Birthday, Singapore! 🙂 I would have loved to take advantage of this long weekend by traveling but flights are so expensive because I wasn’t able to book anything months in advance. So I’m looking forward to a weekend of just relaxing and reading books.

Earlier this week, the latest installment in my favorite urban fantasy series was released: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews!

book haul - Magic Shifts

I had to take a pic of this book with my blog header because the Kate Daniels series was one of the inspirations for my current header’s design. I’ve been really good about waiting to read Magic Shifts because I knew that once I start, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I’m going to devour it this weekend!

Before the long weekend started, I got book mail from the distributor Pansing yesterday:

Pansing book haul - Aug 7

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
A Thousand Nights by EK Johnston

An Aussie YA novel and an ARC of a retelling of Arabian Nights! I haven’t tried both of these authors and I’m looking forward to doing so. I also have Melissa Keil’s other novel, Life in Outer Space, which I grabbed from the SG Book Deals warehouse sale. I really think it’s pretty cool that some Aussie titles pop up in SG. As I mentioned in a recent TTT post, I love reading retellings so it would be interesting to see what A Thousand Nights will be like.

What about the rest of you, have you acquired any new books lately? What are you planning to read this coming weekend?

Andrea K. Höst’s Ebooks On Sale

AKHost Covers

Andrea K. Höst has generously lowered the prices for individual copies of her books for US$0.99 each until the end of the year. Links to Amazon and Smashwords. I LOVED both the Touchstone trilogy and Medair duology, which I read earlier this year. Since then, I’ve reread most of the Touchstone books just because I’ve been itching to do so. I’ve also reviewed And All the Stars here. I also wrote a guest post for Andrea K. Höst week back when Rachel Neumeier organized it. I hope all of that is enough to convince you to give her books a try, especially while they’re currently on sale!

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

I read Six Impossible Things years ago and I remember enjoying it but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember details of the story now. I would have loved to reread it prior to reading Wildlife but my copy is in Manila, I’m not even sure which friend has it at the moment. I have been looking forward to Wildlife ever since it first came out and I saw Aussie bloggers raving about it. I was able to get a copy last year when a friend from Australia passed by Singapore on his way to Manila. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it!

Wildlife in the wild

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

Note to self: do not start reading books late at night if you have a feeling they’re going to be good. I spent a good chunk of one weeknight reading Wildlife and stayed up until 2:30am to finish it. Yes, I needed coffee to survive work the next day. Narrated from the points of view of two characters, Lou and Sibylla, this Aussie YA novel is an engaging read. My heart went out to Lou because of her loss and the grief that she’s still coming to terms with. It’s understandable how closed off she is at the start of the novel. Sibylla is a likeable character, very low-key and cares deeply for her friends. We didn’t get to see his POV but another character I really liked was genius and quirky Michael, who is also very loyal to his friends. I also found the setting refreshingly different, high school students spending a term out in the bush. It’s like a combination of boarding school and camp, away from the city and family homes. I can imagine how difficult it would be for a teenager to adjust to that kind of set-up. Constantly surrounded by others and absolutely no privacy. I find that living on such close quarters like that can either strengthen or destroy relationships. People can either become very comfortable or very annoyed with each other’s quirks. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between the characters changed as the book progressed.

I have to be honest, there was a point in the book when I got frustrated with Sibylla and how passive she is with her relationship and friendship. I was all, “C’mon girl, learn to push back a little.” But it’s not like she’s not aware of the situation she finds herself in because she definitely is. She knows that the balance is tilted in Holly’s favor when it comes to their friendship and she’s also aware of the nuances of dating a popular guy like Ben. It then occurred to me that Sibylla is still in the process of getting to know herself, she hasn’t fully settled into her own skin and as a result, she’s also not sure of how to react to and interact with those around her. It’s a very truthful and realistic portrayal of teenage life. Looking back on my own experiences, I have to admit that not all of the relationships and friendships that I’ve had were healthy or good for me but that’s just how life is. We all make mistakes and that’s how we learn and become better people. So even though I was initially annoyed by some situations, in hindsight, I loved the accurate descriptions of relationships (both romantic and platonic) in Wildlife. It’s all messy and complicated and confusing and feels very real. This is one of those books that I would gladly give to my teenage self because I know I will be able to relate to it. Wildlife reminded me of how brilliant Aussie YA is and I’m so glad I still have a couple of Aussie YA titles in my TBR pile. One of my favorite reads for this year, I recommend Wildlife to fans of realistic young adult fiction.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
Chasing Words

Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

I really liked Andrea K. Host’s And All the Stars last year and even included it in my best of 2013 list. I have been meaning to read the rest of her books since then. I know that several friends (namely Rachel, Estara and Li) have loved the Touchstone trilogy so I requested a review copy from the author and started reading it as soon as I was in the mood for sci-fi. I used to say that I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but given how much I enjoy reading Andrea K. Höst’s novels, it seems like I should read more from that genre. I read the omnibus version of the trilogy so this is a review for all three books – Stray, Lab Rat One and Caszandra – although I wouldn’t be mentioning any spoilers.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Touchstone TrilogyOn her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

Aussie teen Cass tells her story in diary format, so a big factor of the reader’s enjoyment of the Touchstone trilogy is based on how well you can relate and connect with her character. At first I thought it wasn’t going to work for me since I’m not a big fan of stories where the main character is stranded somewhere by herself. However, I found it easy to like Cass and the pace picked up considerably once she was rescued and brought to the alien planet Tare. Cass is smart, funny and has realistic reactions to finding herself suddenly stuck in an unfamiliar world. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to adjust to living in a foreign country, finding yourself in another planet with a drastically different civilization and language is probably a thousand times worse. I could definitely understand her homesickness and loneliness. I also feel like Cass handles herself quite well in spite of the physical and emotional obstacles in her path. Plus, I always think it’s a good thing when the main character of any novel is a book lover. Some excerpts:

“I’ve spent my life with stories of people who don’t walk away, who go back for their friends, who make that last stand. I’ve been brainwashed by Samwise Gamgee.”

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“I’ve spent my whole life reading books. I vaguely remember Mum reading to me in our own bedtime sessions, and our house is practically a library. The way I think, the way I act, most of that’s because of the books I’ve read.”

How can I not like someone who says things like that? I was also fascinated with the technologically advanced world that Andrea K. Höst created – with nanotechnology and tiny computer interface that can be injected in human brains. You can do all sorts of amazing things with the interface like record what you’re seeing, watch movies, read books and play interactive games. In this world, there are also psychic space ninjas called Setari who are specially trained military personnel tasked with keeping the known planets and the space around them safe. Setari have special talents like telekinesis and enhanced sight/senses. Due to certain developments, Cass spends most of her time with the Setari and even befriends some of them. To be honest, I was a little confused with the number of Setari and their talents but I didn’t let that bother me and just kept reading.

One of the aspects of the story that I truly loved was the romance. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what will happen with Cass having such a big crush on someone. I thought she was destined to have “On My Own” as her theme song but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Slowest burn romance that I’ve read in a while! It reminded me a little of the romance in Crown Duel, with a male character who’s all stoic and unreadable, skilled in combat and also a great leader. I was so absorbed by this series that I kept squeezing in time to read it even though I was supposed to do other things – like pack for a trip home or get some sleep. I even read bits and pieces of this in the car, which I don’t normally do because it makes me dizzy. I hope that gives the rest of you an idea of how engrossed I was. The story lingered in my mind days after I finished reading it, giving me one heck of a book hangover. I devoured the Gratuitous Epilogue, which features the events after the trilogy, right after I finished the three books. What’s interesting is that I think Touchstone will even be better as a reread because I wouldn’t be confused by some of the things that initially bugged me and can pay attention to other details instead. I can now safely say that I’ve become an Andrea K. Höst fangirl. Seriously, more of my reader friends should be introduced to her work. If you haven’t read any of her books, consider this a push in the right direction. I already have Medair in my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Touchstone and hot choco

“All these planets, and none of them have chocolate. Severe oversight in world creation.”

Other reviews:
Me and My Books (contains spoilers)
The Book Smugglers – Stray, Lab Rat One, Caszandra

Want Books: Hate is Such a Strong Word

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

As if I don’t have enough Aussie YA books in my wishlist, I keep adding more and more of them whenever I come across an intriguing title featured by an Aussie blogger. I think I first heard about Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub when my friend Nomes revealed the cover on her blog Inkcrush. Whenever Nomes features a new Aussie novel on her blog, my usual reaction is “I WANT THAT! Why is it only available in Australia?!” So off the title goes to my wishlist. I’m a fan of Hate is Such a Strong Word’s cover, I like all the background text and how the book’s title pops out. Normally, I don’t like seeing actual people or models in book covers but I’m fine with the two characters in this cover since I don’t think they’re the main focus of the cover design.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Hate is Such a Strong WordSophie Kazzi is in Year 12 at an all-Lebanese, all-Catholic school where she is invisible, uncool and bored out of her brain. While she′s grown up surrounded by Lebanese friends, Lebanese neighbours and Lebanese shops, she knows there′s more to life than Samboosik and Baklawa, and she desperately wants to find it.

Unfortunately, her father has antiquated ideas about women, curfews and the Lebanese ‘way’. Bad news for Sophie, who was hoping to spend Year 12 fitting in and having fun – not babysitting her four younger siblings, or studying for final exams that will land her in an Accounting course she has no interest in.

Just when it looks like Sophie′s year couldn′t get any more complicated, Shehadie Goldsmith arrives at school. With an Australian father and a Lebanese mother, he′s even more of a misfit than Sophie. And with his arrogant, questioning attitude, he also has a way of getting under her skin…

But when simmering cultural tensions erupt in violence, Sophie must make a choice that will threaten her family, friends and the cultural ties that have protected her all her life.

Are her hates and complaints worth it? Or will she let go… and somehow find her place?

Seems like a fun contemporary novel. I don’t think I’ve read a book with a Lebanese main character before. What about you, what book is at the top of your wishlist?

Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend! I had a pretty fun Saturday – met a friend for lunch. She’s currently in the middle of The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (can you guess who recommended the series to her?) so of course, we talked about Gen. Then we dropped by the Public Garden bazaar this afternoon. Here are some pictures:

Public Garden

washi clouds at public garden

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