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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


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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! 😀


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Breaking News: Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

This news was shared all over Twitter the other day, but in case you missed it… Monica Edinger has some news about the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner:

… a little bird told me the next two are in the home stretch of being finished and coming out some time in the not-too-far-off future. First the publisher will reissue the original four to bring a new generation of readers to them and then….numbers five and six.

Queen's Thief

This is HUGE! Megan Whalen Turner fans have been wait for YEARS to hear some news about her next book. I’m thrilled that they’re planning to reissue the books to gain more readers but I’m really hoping that the new designs will be just as good as the Vince Natale covers that the series currently has. This series and the community around it means a lot to me. I read the books before I started my blog so I didn’t really write a review of it, but I did host a blog event back in 2012 to celebrate the books and you can read some of the posts here.

If you haven’t read the series and you feel like we have similar tastes in books then I highly recommend that you pick it up. I’m borrowing an image made by my friend Angie when she did her guest post for Queen’s Thief Week:

Queen's Thief Week: Guest Post by Angie of Angieville


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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve heard of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy but I’ve seen mixed reviews of it so I’ve always been hesitant about picking it up. Especially now that we’re so close to the end of the year, I feel like sticking to books that come highly recommended. So when my good friends Angie and Michelle started raving about Six of Crows, I paid attention. If they both loved it then I knew chances were high that I would enjoy reading it too. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Six of CrowsKetterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price — and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Six of Crows was such a fun read! I would have devoured it more quickly if I wasn’t having such a busy work week. The pace was a bit slow at the start but quickly picked up after the crew of six has been assembled. And what a crew! I’m normally not a huge fan of having too many POVs in one novel but I didn’t mind getting a glimpse inside the heads of Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, and Jesper. Only Wylan didn’t get his own POV but he was very much a part of the story. I couldn’t imagine the story being told any other way. I really liked all six of these characters – they were all well-developed and complex, with a full backstory of how they found themselves in the slums. I found all of their stories interesting, and I liked how their layers were peeled away throughout the course of the novel. Kaz and Inej are probably my favorites of the bunch. Kaz the scheming, lying and brilliant thief that he is. And his right hand, Inej, unparalleled in moving undetected and collecting valuable information. A thief and a spy, two types of characters that I thoroughly enjoy reading about! An early non-spoilery snippet that I think describes the characters well:

Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”

“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.

“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.

“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.

“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

Kaz rolled his eyes. “The easiest way to steal a man’s wallet is to tell him you’re going to steal his watch. You take his attention and direct it where you want it to go…”

Words of wisdom from Kaz Brekker, ladies and gentlemen. It was just a pleasure to see all six of them working together, doing their best to trust and rely on each other. Even if they don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Even though they know each person in their group has done things he/she is not proud of. Each of them had their limits stretched during the time they’re all together. Their adventure kept me absorbed because the action never let up. I had no way of predicting how things will turn out and how these characters react to the situations they found themselves in. I was rooting so hard for them to get the prize that they all deserve. I also enjoyed the worldbuilding in this one. I was a little confused by the different kinds of powers the Grisha had (Six of Crows is my introduction to the world) but I became more familiar with them as the story progressed. Based on the descriptions, I think Ravka is based on Russia while Fjerda is probably one of the Scandinavian countries. I was also a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s writing in this one. I felt like the story just flowed smoothly, and there were lines from the characters that I kept highlighting. Last but certainly not the least, there’s more than one slow burn romance in Six of Crows with flawed characters that totally deserve to be together even if they don’t realize it yet. I can’t wait to see how these romances develop, especially the one which is the most subtle out of all of them. It must be noted that the story is not fully finished in this novel, and there will be a next installment due to be released next year. I was mildly surprised to reach the end, partly because I wanted to keep reading, and also because I wanted to know how the story ends. The second book can’t come soon enough.

Other reviews:
Angieville
Ivy Book Bindings


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Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

Choco Chip HipsI found out about Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera when I saw friends posting about it on Goodreads. I was immediately curious because of the title. I read the premise and it also looked intriguing. I haven’t read anything else by the author and I thought this title would be a good one to start with. It’s Filipino YA and that’s something that I’ll always be interested to try.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Jessie, a baking aficionado, is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a journey that involves ditching the apron for her tank top, as she hip-hop dances her way to new friendships, stronger family ties, and into her school’s most elite club.

I enjoyed reading Choco Chip Hips and I know that I would have fallen in love with this book if I read it as a teen. I’m so glad readers are getting more Filipino fiction nowadays. I liked Jessie’s character and could relate to a lot of things in her life. Like Jessie, I also LOVE desserts (I think that’s obvious if you follow my Instagram account, which is basically bookstagrams and foodstagrams). I thought it was cute that Jessie’s dad runs a local dessert and cake shop. If it was a real place, I would have dropped by their store! Baking is also what brought Jessie and her best friend Kim together. The downside of eating too much sweets and not exercising is that Jessie is overweight. I can just imagine how difficult that is for a teenage girl to deal with. I also struggle with trying to lose weight and living a healthy lifestyle. So that’s another thing that made me empathize with Jessie. I could totally understand the beating that her self-esteem gets because of her weight issues. I thought that aspect of the book was handled very realistically, even with how crude Filipinos can get when it comes to weight-related topics. People here in Singapore are always surprised when I tell them that the first thing Filipino relatives notice when they see you is how your weight has changed. The last time I was home, an uncle said he couldn’t take my picture because he doesn’t have a wide angle lens (I actually thought it was funny but hey, I’m not a sensitive teenager). A non-spoilery snippet that I really liked:

I looked at the mug of thick, hot chocolate, like I was seeing it for the first time. The sides of the cup were smudged with dark brown liquid, dotted with grains. To get this thick consistency, you had to melt the tablea in water with milk, stirring the pot tirelessly with a wooden molonillo. You whisked and whisked until your arms protested, until the ingredients melded in a rich and silky brown. It was a labor of love.

I pulled the mug closer, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and inhaled. It smelled – what was it, exactly? – full. It smelled so many things: dark, earthy, and fruity. I held the rim to my lips and took a long, thoughtful sip.

“It’s not as sweet as you’re used to,” Dad said apologetically.

It tasted a hint of the sweet, a hint of the bitter – the way life always had been.

Argh, where can I get a nice cup of tablea hot chocolate in Singapore? Another thing that I could relate to was how Jessie enjoyed dancing. I’m a frustrated hip-hop dancer and it’s always made me sad that I don’t have the talent when it comes to singing and dancing. I even enrolled in a hip-hop class during one of my summer breaks in high school. The main thing I learned was that I don’t have what it takes to be dancer. Inspired by stories of how great a dancer her mom was back in the day, Jessie tries hip-hop dancing and discovers how much she enjoys it. I thought it was pretty awesome how she decides to break out of her shell and do something different. In the process, she gains some of her confidence back and learns more about herself. I loved how supportive Jessie’s dad is in everything that she does, the two of them were really a team. I also though both Kim and Dave were good friends to Jessie, in their own ways. I enjoyed seeing their interactions. One minor quibble that I have is that I felt like the romance in this book was half-baked. On one hand, it was refreshing that Jessie’s growth as a person was centered on herself and not on another person. But on the other hand, I felt that the story could have been stronger if there weren’t any hints of romance. I would have been satisfied with a blossoming friendship instead. That was a minor issue for me and it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of Choco Chip Hips. Honestly, I believe this is a well-written piece of Filipino fiction. It felt like the author knew what she was talking about when it came to baking and dancing, two of the major themes of the book. I will be adding this title to my list of recommendations written by Filipino authors. I’m just not sure how well the story will work for non-Filipino readers because some Filipino words are in there but no definitions were included.

Choco Chip Hips - with cookies

I couldn’t resist getting some cookies while I was in the middle of this book. They’re from Cookies For Sid: chocolate chip, earl grey and chocolate mint.

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Le Bibliophile


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NCBD Blog Tour: Favorite Filipino Children and Young Adult Titles

I found out about the upcoming 32nd National Children’s Books Day from Chrissie’s blog post. I loved that she highlighted Filipino children and young adult titles. There is an ongoing NCBD blog tour and this week’s topic is this:

Hulyo 7-13: Paboritong Aklat
Ano ang paborito mong aklat pambata at pangkabataan? (Kailangang isinulat o iginuhit ito ng isang Pilipino. Maaari namang maglista nang higit sa isa pa.)
________

July 7-13: Favorite Book
What is your favorite children and young adult book? (It should have been written or illustrated by a Filipino. Feel free to list more than one.)

NCBD Blog Tour Header

I am so jealous of the titles available to Filipino children and young adult readers today. When I was young, there weren’t as many local books to choose from. But there were a few that I loved. I distinctly remember being a huge fan of books published by the Batibot brand. Batibot was a Filipino kiddie TV show similar to Sesame Street. Some of the kiddie books I read over and over again were:

Sina Linggit Laban kay Barakuda ni Tom F. Agulto & Rene O. Villanueva
Ang Pamilya Ismid ni Ramoncito Serrano & Rene O. Villanueva
Si Inggolok at ang Planeta Pakaskas ni Rene O. Villanueva & Lem Garcellano

Sina Linggit Laban kay Barakuda
Ang Pamilya Ismid
Si Inggolok at ang Planeta Pakaskas

I remember my nursery school even put up a play enacting Sina Linggit Laban kay Barakuda and I was Linggit! Too bad my photo albums are all back in Manila, otherwise I’d try to hunt down a picture.

Nowadays, I try to encourage my godchildren to read by giving them books for their birthdays and during Christmastime. I’ve read several Filipino children’s books while choosing what titles to buy for them. A recent favorite was Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki, which I discovered through Filipino author Mina V. Esguerra.

Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki

A few years ago, I attended the Manila book launch of Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story, a middle grade novel partially set in the Philippines. I enjoyed reading it and I’ve recommended it to other people as well. I have Candy’s Shine in my TBR pile and I’m planning to read it soon. These two books are available internationally so I happily recommend them to reader friends who are interested in reading Filipino books.

Tall Story

What about you, what are Filipino children or young adult books have you enjoyed reading?


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Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier

Urban fantasy YA novel Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite reads last year. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel right after I finished reading that book. So when Rachel offered to send me a review copy of Pure Magic in ebook format, I enthusiastically said yes. I didn’t waste any time and jumped right in. Thankfully, I still remembered most of the story from the first book and didn’t have to do a reread prior to picking up Pure Magic. The books need to be read in order so read Black Dog first before venturing into Pure Magic. There’s also a set of short stories that occurs between the first and second book. I won’t mention spoilers but feel free to skip this review if you haven’t read the earlier books yet.

Pure Magic Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

After Natividad, Alejandro, and Miguel’s victory against their family’s rival, even more dangerous threats emerge, from an increase in stray black dogs to far worse opponents who would tear down the fragile Dimiloc alliance and re-make it in their own image.

I liked being back in the world that Rachel Neumeier created in her urban fantasy series. Where some men and women can shift into these ferocious and aggressive creatures called black dogs, similar to wolves. And where there are also people like Natividad, who are Pure and can create a defensive form of magic mostly used for peace and protection against evil. I think the first book did a good job of laying out the foundation for the worldbuilding and this sequel builds upon that. I liked seeing more of Natividad’s magic and how creative she can get within the limitations of what she can do. Because of the nature of her magic, Natividad has a quiet strength that shines through when the people she cares about are in danger. I think it’s impressive how a normally unobtrusive kind of magic becomes crucial in certain situations. I really liked that the Pure have their own kind of power and the focus of the story shifts between the Pure and black dogs. That is not to say that humans don’t play an important role in this world because they do, as illustrated by Natividad’s twin, Miguel. Even without special powers, Miguel significantly contributes to helping Dimilioc in its efforts to rebuild the clan. A big part of why I enjoy this series is the characters. Aside from Natividad and her brothers, I also liked the various members of the Dimilioc clan, not the least of which is their executioner, Ezekiel. I found the early chapters of the book a bit slow because of the introduction of a new main character and narrator, Justin, but it was soon revealed how he was important to the story so I didn’t mind. Like with the rest of the characters, I just wanted to find out more about him.

While I did feel that Pure Magic had a bit of a slow start, the climax builds really nicely until you reach a point where the characters are in situations where the odds are seemingly impossible. The stakes are high and there’s only so much that the Dimilioc black dogs and Pure can do. It makes for an absorbing read. I was glad I picked this up on a weekend and I didn’t have to worry about work getting in the way of my reading time. I was worried about the characters and I wanted everyone to find a way out of the difficulties they found themselves in. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger but keep in mind that there will be more installments in the series and some of the future plot arcs have been nicely set up in Pure Magic. There’s a more global view of the black dog world in this book as compared to the first one, where we mostly saw the focus in the Americas – North America where the Dimilioc strength lies and also Mexico because that’s where Natividad and her brothers grew up. My review of Pure Magic will not be complete if I didn’t mention the slow burn romance. There was just a hint of it in the first book and I immediately wanted A LOT MORE. More scenes with these two potential lovebirds, more dialogue and conversation, and a better idea of what they thought of each other. Pure Magic does not disappoint! I really savored this aspect of the story, although I certainly wouldn’t have minded if these two had more page time in the book. There were too many things happening for them to have a quiet time together. I can always hope for that in the next novel, which I already can’t wait to read even if it hasn’t even been written yet! Similar to Black Dog, Pure Magic was a very satisfying read and I recommend it to fans of YA urban fantasy.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
By Singing Light