Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 ~ A Year in Review

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE! I can't believe we are approaching 2016 already. I say this every year but seriously: time flies!

2015 has been a very good year to me and I wanted to reflect on all the awesome that happened - bookish and otherwise.

In February I ventured properly into the real world and became an adult with a proper full-time job (no more uni!!!) and I've met some great people. I've learnt so much and I think I've matured a bit more as a person.

I thought that by working full-time and saying goodbye to uni meant I'd finally have time to blog more and read a LOT more. Alas, this was not the case. Working 9-5 makes Jaz very tired and something something by the time I get home.

Looking back on my 2015 blogging goals post earlier in the year I realised I didn't really achieve much -
Catch up on review copies – have the guts to realise when enough is enough and DNFI did manage to review all the books I request this year, but still haven't caught up on the ones requested from previous years (oops). 
Write posts that aren’t just reviewsI did some discussion posts and features which is all right - but definitely not enough. 
Introduce some new featuresAgain as above. 
Read more diverse booksI'm really happy about this one. I read SO many diverse books this year - I went to expand my horizons and read quite a few LBGT (and Q) books as well as some on mental illness. I'm also happy that quite a few books that came out this year had POC (Winter, The Wrath and Dawn, Magnus Chase just to name a few.) 
Connect with bloggers and non-bloggersI've met so many more people via twitter and bookish events this year so yay for new friends!

I'm actually really terrible with goals so I'm not too fussed about this - we do what we can given the circumstances you get me?

I got the opportunity to participate in fabulous blog tours this year for some of my favourite books
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon hosted by Bloomsbury
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas hosted by Bloomsbury
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas hosted by the Maas Thirteen - this is our pride and joy and we're so happy that this is the second year we're doing these tours!
There were also many gems discovered through unsolicited copies like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne.

Thanks to the lovely Bloomsbury I had the privilege of interviewing Sarah J. Maas for the ACOTAR blog tour, and meeting and interviewing Lyla Payne in person, 

Then there were the amazing bookish events this year
  • Insurgent red carpet premiere thanks to BTCYA (HarperCollins Australia)
  • The DUFF screening thanks to Date a Book (Hachette Australia)
  • TeenCon2015 where the publishers battled it out in the Book Boyfriend showdown AND CHAOL SHOULD TOTALLY HAVE WON but I'm okay with Dimitri winning
  • Paper Towns red carpet premiere with Cara Delevinge thanks to BTCYA (HarperCollins Australia)
  • Hachette YA Bloggers Night with special guest Holly Black
  • Illuminae launch party with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • BTCYA Sydney with special guest Jamie Curry
  • MEETING SARAH J MAAS - this was the icing on my cake for an amazing year

And all the cool meetups
  • Dessert with Jess
  • Movies with Joy (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and a few more I can't even remember lol)
  • Catch ups with Kat, Catriona and Amie

Non-bookish stuff wise I saw two ballets this year - Sleeping Beauty which was ok but Swan Lake was AMAZING. I somehow managed to go to 3 K-pop concerts - BTS, Big Bang and my personal favourite BEAST. I got to hi-5 BEAST - ALL THE MEMBERS. Life complete because I touched my bias Yoseob *creyyys*

Special thanks to Mel (your present so gorgeous I love you so much) and Ellis for making my birthday special with your presents *hugs and kisses*

SEE YOU IN 2016!!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Annual End of Year Survey

Every year, Jamie from the Perpetual Page Turner hosts the Annual End of Year Survey - she's up to the 6th year and I'm up to the... 3rd? I think? Or maybe 2nd haha. Either way, I haven't missed a year since I started blogging!

Number Of Books You Read: 76 (on my 77th and aiming for 80)

Number of Re-Reads: 0 (I don't really do re-reads but I do re-read certain chapters of books I love such as Apollyon by Jennifer L. Armentrout)

Genre You Read The Most From:

1. Best book you read in 2015?

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas hands down.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley. Gah I was expecting some wonderful insight into genderqueer people but I got pretentious self-pitying teenagers instead.

But also Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – this was probably the most hyped up book since it was announced and it was so terrible.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – despite it being similar to a lot of YA books out there, it also held its own.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?


5. Best Series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Best Series Started: Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff was just so different and what a wonderful experience!

Best Sequel: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas because DUHHH

Best Series Ender: End of Days by Susan Ee had such a perfect ending to the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Victoria Schwab! I devoured The Archive, Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic this year.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne – I don’t usually like NA but this was so sweet and swoony.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

QUEEN OF SHADOWSSSSSSS ahaha I could not stop turning the pages. Devoured this thing in a day and a half even with work (but Illuminae comes in at a close 2nd).

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – my goodness this book. The magic and everything SO MUCH LOVE

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
– who can compete with that cover? WHO?

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas sweet baby jesus this man. *Fans self* I CANNA WAIT FOR A COURT OF MIST AND FURY.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas omg that imagery, especially the Spring Court!

13. Most thought-provoking/ Llife-changing book of 2015?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – AIDAN the artificial intelligence system was just amazing and brings on the question of can AI develop human emotions? I still say no but AIDAN seemed to come close.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – the Studio Ghibli movie is my fav ever so I was always hesitant to read the book even though I love Diana Wynne Jones.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2015?

Shortest: New Music by Paula Stokes 31 page short story

Longest: Winter by Marissa Meyer 824 pages

17. Book that shocked you the most

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. That plot twist WOWOWOW give me The Song Rising NOWWW.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

CINDER AND KAI from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year

Wow Agnieszka and Kasia from Uprooted by Naomi Novik – this is what true friendship looks like.

20. Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (I want to say Sarah J. Maas but she’s a given)

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure

Vicious by Victoria Schwab… I already had this and was planning to read it at some point in the future but a friend kept saying how good it is so I bumped it up my TBR.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Rhys from ACOTAR is a given so Cary White from Sleigh Bells and Second Chances (Mistletoe and Mr. Right) by Lyla Payne!

23. Best 2015 debut you read?


24. Best world-building/most vivid setting you read this year?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas like wow that imagery

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier – I binge read the whole Precious Stones trilogy and just loved it so much! It was so funny.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?

Casually sobbing my eyes out in Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

27. Hidden gem of the year?

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West – her contemporaries are on point.

28. Book that crushed your soul?

O_O The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh my god the ending.

29. Most unique book you read in 2015?

Sooooo Illuminae is a given because LOOK AT THE WAY IT WAS WRITTEN.

But also Just Kids by Patti Smith because I never read non-fiction and this memoir was astounding and profound and it celebrated the friendship between Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe, and his art beautifully.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Dangerous Girls by Abilgail Haas like omg it dragged on so much more me and it wasn’t believable and teenage girls are portrayed as shallow this made me so ANGRY.

My favourite 2015 releases that may or may not have been mentioned in the survey

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Sydney for this review copy <3

If you haven't checked out my interview with Lyla, you really should.


Date Read: October 19 - 20 2015
Date Released: December 1st 2015 (this edition)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary (new adult)
My Rating:
Buy Link: Bloomsbury Australia

"In "Mistletoe and Mr. Right," Jessica (not Jessie) takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays for Christmas break, sure that Ireland will provide the perfect backdrop to the beginning of their happily ever after. But it turns out his family--and his gorgeous ex-girlfriend--don't feel the same way, and the only person making the trip worthwhile is the local farmhand, who has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most . . . and least.

The holiday hijinks continue in "Sleigh Bells and Second Chances," when Jessica's best friend makes her own way across the pond! Christina Lake does not want to be away at Christmas, but it's her duty to babysit one of London's hottest bands at their last-minute concert on Christmas Eve . . . even though she had a fling with Cary, the band's lead singer, that never officially ended. Now forced to reconnect, Christina is starting to think that maybe London is exactly where she's supposed to be to get the perfect New Year's kiss--at least until she finds out that he's been lying the whole time. Can Cary find a way to prove himself before the clock strikes twelve? Or will the New Year ring in a new romance?

Lyla Payne wraps up two perfect holiday novellas, ties them with a ribbon of romance, and tops them with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!"


I don’t think I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by a new adult book since KB Ritchie's Kiss the Sky. I always expect the same tropes in new adult and my only hope is that the writing is good and the characters bearable. Payne exceeded all my expectations with a sweet romance that just had me feeling all the warm and fuzzies for Christmas.

Mistletoe and Mr. Right

Americal gal Jessica decides to surprise her Irish boyfriend Brennan by following him home for Christmas break. Even before she gets to his cottage in the countryside, it's like Ireland is against Jessica. Fear not though, Jessica is a tough girl and she perseveres. That's one of my favourite qualities about her. A lot of things go wrong for her in Ireland - from their food/culture, to the way people perceive her - but she doesn't let these things get her down. As someone who has been alone for a long time she knows how to take care of herself. I admired the way she kept picking herself up no matter how many times she fell. She's one of those girls that like being in control and I loved that about her. She doesn't drink because of this but as the story progressed I like the way she learnt to trust others and take risks.

In comes Grady the gruff farm hand/assistant to Brannan's family who seems to always begrudgingly come to Jessica's rescue. He's sweet and caring when he wants to be, and most of the time he's really funny. There's definitely some chemistry between the two. Ah but Brannan is Jessica's boyfriend and he's a decent guy too. What I loved about this book is that everybody felt so real. They all have flaws but they have good qualities too. Brannan and Jessica are honest people and they try remain faithful to each other no matter what.

There's also Brannan's ex-girlfriend who is actually a nice girl. She's not bitchy and she's not mean to Jessica. Katie acknowledges the decisions she's made but there's also the undeniable history between her and Brennan. Despite Katie and Jessica both being jealous of each other at times (Jessica more so), they are able to remain civil most of the time which I found to be realistic. I mean, you meet your boyfriend's ex, sure you're going to be slightly jealous if you don't know their history, but if she's genuinely nice to you then why can't you be nice back?

However, underneath all this toing and froing between these 4 lads and lasses, are secrets. Every one of them carries burdens and I loved how these unfolded with the countdown to Christmas as everybody got to know each other better. All this is set against the backdrop of the Irish countryside which Payne beautifully describes - craggy boulders, smashing waves and dark ocean. Ireland's definitely one of the places I want to visit.

Everything about Mistletoe and Mr. Right is just so sweet and cute. Great layered characters with a deeper plot, lots of Christmas cheer and snow, and the quest for true love.

Sleigh Bells and Second Chances

In Sleigh Bells and Second Chances, Jessica's best friend and sorority sister Christina ventures to England on an internship. She's event managing one of the most popular bands and won't let her fling with lead singer Cary get in her way. Although it's way obvious Christina isn't over Cary she's dedicated to her job. She's a very driven person and knows what she wants in life career-wise. While she runs around making sure the band went to all their events on time, she was also forced to face her history with Cary now that the two are face to face. She deals with things in a very mature fashion - putting her job first and trying to push her personal life away. I just love reading about people who care about their careers - it's rare in new adult books and I think we need more of this as a role model for young readers.

I absolutely fell in love with Cary! I thought I liked Grady but while he was a bit gruff Cary is the sweetest soul. He's not rude or pretentious and he never let his fame get to him. He really tries to interact with Christina and ahhhhhh FEELS because he's not like most NA guys who are troubled or feel the need to swear to show their manliness. He's like the smiling boy next door who offers to help you carry stuff, the one who will give up his hat and mittens for you in the cold and grab you hot chocolate to keep you warm. Where on earth can I find a Cary for myself?

The realistic style continues in Christina's book with her step-family. She's got issues with her father but doesn't blame her step-family for any of it. Not all stepfamilies are bad and I loved the way Christina's was portrayed. Again, they're not perfect but they're real people and I loved the way one of her stepsisters provides wisdom and support for Christina. There was this homey vibe that really added to the Christmas cheer.

More secrets though! That history between Christina and Cary I mentioned? Well something certainly happened all those years ago and shit gets real. Like epic-showdown-family-gets-involved real. It was so well done I didn't expect it and I was like PLOT TWIST and sort of mind blown.

Keeping with the Christmas theme though, Payne also takes us around London with Christina and she paints this gorgeous picture of Christmas in England what with ice skating and Christmas shopping (MY FAV). There's just this wonderful balance of dark plot with happy festive season.

Can you tell I loved these two Christmas novellas? Payne really has a knack for writing new adult and I wish there were more books like this out there - ones with characters that are all flawed and realistic, guys that are sweet rather than possessive/abusive, girls that can make mistakes and still be who they are, no cussing and to top it all off, great writing. GIVE ME A CARY NOW.


Now for my gift to you. I loved these novellas so much I'm giving away an e-book copy as my Christmas present to you!

The giveaway is international and the winner will receive 1 e-book of Mistletoe and Mr. Right: Two Stories of Holiday Romance on either iBooks or Amazon Kindle (the winner's choice). Sorry, I'm not sure how to gift on other e-book platforms as I don't have these :c

Winner must provide me with their email address within 48h of me emailing, to redeem the e-book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Interview with Lyla Payne

All the way back in October, I was given the great opportunity by Bloomsbury Sydney to interview US new adult author, Lyla Payne. Thank you so much to Sonia for organising and Genieve for working after hours supervising!

I've been saving this interview + book review (keep an eye out on the blog tomorrow for review) of Mistletoe and Mr. Right for the festive season because well... duh?

Joy @ Thoughts by J has her interview up, we both asked different questions so you should definitely check out her post.

I admit that I was binge reading MaMR the night before the interview because I hadn't read any of Lyla's stuff before (guilty as charged) but after reading it I was so pleasantly surprised. You can see why in my interview with Lyla as she has a very different take on new adult.

Q: The “new adult” genre has gained lot of traction in the past few years, what does this categorisation mean for you?

Lyla: I think it’s really interesting, I think a lot of people assume it means hot, romance, with hardly any rules. But to me it’s more like, when you write young adult fiction it’s more about figuring out who you are, what you want to be but you still have a safety net right because you still live at home, still have your parents if you get in trouble. In college it’s different, you’re kind of transitioning into adulthood and figuring out how to take care of yourself and how to do things for yourself when you don’t have a safety net. There’s more risk involved. I think it can be funny too like you can’t make macaroni and cheese with water and things you learn when you have to make your own food.

Q: NA is sometimes known for its angsty and at times violent relationships. How do you feel about this?

Lyla: None of my new adult books have that and I think it kind of bothers me – I don’t really like the anticipation of the possessive, jealous, violent guys. A lot of people loved [this book] but I had to really make myself read it. I think part of it is that my first husband was really emotionally abusive so I don’t think that’s hot. I could see how people who haven’t lived through it could think that’s somehow like sexy if he’s super possessive. So it’s partially a personal thing but I don’t think we should perpetuate that as something romantic but people argue that’s escapism and fantasy and that’s fine too – it’s just certainly not for me.

Q: Reading Mistletoe and Mr. Right, I found you broke this stereotype with a bittersweet but light hearted read, how else do you break the NA stereotype?

Lyla: My other new adult series is the Whitman University series and I kind of gender flip it. Mostly, my girls are worse than my boys. Not in the first one though, Broken at Love is about a broken kind of guy. The first and the fifth book are about bad boys but the three in the middle are all just girls that have issues; girls that have abuse issues, girls that have confidence issues, things like that. So they’re kind of the ones struggling. What’s really interesting about it is that readers will not forgive the girls. Like for the same things they’ll forgive the boys for – a double standard. They judge the girl a lot more harshly for having problems and taking time to get over them. But I feel like that does make mine a little bit different ‘cause it’s not just the bad boys. My boys are pretty sweet actually.

[Joy and I sort of expressed our opinions on society/double standards/sexism about the readers not forgiving girls thing.]

Q: I like how Jessica chooses to abstain from alcohol. Was this a theme you really wanted to drive separate to Jessica’s control issues?

Lyla: Yeah I don’t necessarily have a problem with characters that drink but for Jessica it was more like she didn’t like the idea of not being in control. I feel like the scene in the book where she does drink too much is kind of like a growth for her character and to trust somebody else to get her home and take care of her.

Q: What makes sororities so popular in the US? Is it normal for someone not to join one?

Lyla: I think it probably depends on the school. I went to a really small university, there were only 7500 students when I was there and so it was a huge part. I think the bigger the university the less popular Greek life is ‘cause there’s more options for finding your tribe. A lot of girls join and then quit by senior year because you’ve made your friends. It was where I met my friends and segued into parties and stuff.


I loved Lyla's opinion on writing new adult and the way she breaks the stereotypes we've all come to know. We talked about some light hearted stuff like sororities and differences between college in the US and uni in Aus (how we have societies over here). There's also some pretty deep discussion too about abuse.

Thank you so much to Lyla for your time and thank you again Bloomsbury Sydney for this opportunity.

Also keep an eye out tomorrow for my review and a little Christmas something with it.

About Lyla

Lyla Payne has been publishing New Adult romance novels for a little over a year, starting with Broken at Love and continuing with the rest of the Whitman University series. She loves telling stories, discovering the little reasons people fall in love, and uncovering hidden truths in the world around us – past and present. In her spare time she cuddles her two dogs, pretends to enjoy exercising so that she can eat as much Chipotle as she wants, and harbors a deep and abiding hope that Zac Efron likes older women. She loves reading, of course, along with movies, traveling, and Irish whiskey. Lyla’s hard at work, ALWAYS, and hopes to bring you more Whitman University antics and at least one more Lowcountry ghost tale before the end of the year.

Lyla Payne is represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa Blog Hop

I love Secret Santa. I try to do as many as possible every year (within budget LOL). One of my favs is the Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa!

1. What are your top 5 favourite books this year?

  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
2. How did you go with your Goodreads challenge?
Still going! 70/80 I don’t think I’ll get there sadly.
3. How many times did you post a week on average? Do you think you'll post more/less in the future?
Like 1-2 posts a week on good weeks. Took some hiatuses lol. It’ll be the same in the future.
4. What is your favourite blogging moment/achievement of 2015?
For all the books I requested this year, I posted all my reviews on time (shocker I know). Also, meeting Sarah J Maas FINALLY. I’ve been waiting since ToG was released!
5. Did you read mostly review or non-review books this year?
Mainly non-review because I buy so many and wanted to catch up!
6. What are your blogging goals for 2016?
Struggle is real. No real goals. Just attempt to do what I did this year and I’ll be good HAHA.
7. What books are you looking forward to in 2016?
ToG 5 and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon, Passenger by Alex Bracken,  Illuminae 2 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, PS I Like You by Kasie West, The Last Star by Rick Yancey, The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab, Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Firebird 3 by Claudia Gray.
Based on the answers above, have you been a good or naughty blogger this year?
I posted. That’s good enough for me.

Leave 3 clues to help your santee guess who you are!
1. You recently posted a wrap-up for PTA Live.
2. You weren’t a huge fan of Mockingjay Part 2
3. One of your favourite books this year was Heir of Fire (yes I went for the Sarah book LOL)

#LoveOzYA? Join the Australian YA Bloggers on Goodreads and Facebook to join in the fun!
Follow the Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa blog hop below!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Their Fractured Light (Starbound trilogy #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Firstly, thanks to Allen & Unwin for this review copy <3


Date Read: November 12 - 20 2015
Date Released: December 1st 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy
My Rating:

"A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost.

When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide."


Their Fractured Light satisfying ties up the Starbound trilogy and the overall arc while introducing Sophia and Gideon to the story and their interconnectedness to the other characters. While I enjoyed this book overall I do admit it was my least favourite of the series. For some off reason I felt that a lot of the revelations and plot twists were obvious and that any confusion was miscommunication by the characters. What TFL did was bring all the characters together and smooth out everything so they were on the same page for an epic showdown.

Sophia is probably the character I’m least invested in out of our three heroines. To me, she was very average and I found her back story lacking. Compared to Lilac and Lee, Sophia felt… bland. The other two had so much unknown history to be discovered but what was revealed about Sophia was basically what we got in This Shattered World. I did like the concentration on her personality though, and her very serious trust issues that obviously come with her being a con artist. And what a fantastic con artist she is. It was fascinating watching her slip into any number of personas at will, back and forth. I loved the way Sophia could make a guy putty in her hands and manipulate him to her doing. Qurrlllll power! She had pretty decent character growth as the book progressed and I liked that she learned forgiveness.

Gideon was definitely my favourite of the two with his mad hacking skills. While at times misplaced I liked how, when he put his mind to something, he went for it. He was so driven and I admired that about him. I could also really relate to his cheerful personality to hide all the pain he held within himself. I really liked his backstory and the connection he held with everybody else. I appreciated how he tried to understand Sophia and the reasons why she didn’t trust. I’m going to mention again how much I loved his backstory and the threads woven throughout.

Following the style of the trilogy, the romance is slow burn but with this one there’s attraction from the beginning. I didn’t feel this romance as much as the previous books as I felt there was so much other stuff going on. What I did feel though was this back and forth of trust and distrust between the two as they slowly worked their way around each other. It was more a development of understanding each other’s goals most of the way, rather than a focus of love. I liked this progression as they both had walls so it was an interesting dynamic.

While their respective POVs showed all the action, I felt that a lot of the plot and backstory was told through the chapter breaks which are absolutely fabulous. They were my favourite parts of the book. In so little words, so much was revealed and these few lines managed to reveal so much despair, pain, joy, hope and heartbreak.

As always Kaufman and Spooner don’t disappoint on the world building or detail. Corinth is splendour and modern. Tech savvy and luxurious with glamorous skyscrapers reaching as far as the eye can see as they stretch across the horizon. Corinth is filth and poverty. Black markets and hidden secrets with layers of undercities stacked upon each other. I loved the shiny surface of LRI covering so much and everything unravelling.

It all builds up to an epic showdown that I’ve been waiting for since the first book.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November Wrap-Up

Hi guys I'm back after a hiatus sorry for disappearing! Things got insanely hectic at work with training days and side projects to the point where I got so exhausted each night/week all I had time to do was sleep - and that's all I wanted to do. I did learn a lot on training and got some really good take outs.

You may skip this section in italics:
I went on a 2 day course for Design Thinking which is a way of thinking from the customer's point of view and looking at a concept purely from a desirability perspective (because feasibility and viability are constraints that really limit possibilities). I loved the positivity to the course and the way all ideas were encouraged and nobody was shut down. If we could take this and apply it everywhere I think it would boost people speaking up (confidence) and generate even greater ideas.
Last week I was on a 3 day conference with guest speakers on leadership and development. The leadership speaker was really inspiring and I liked the themes she spoke of. I finally had a huge weight lifted off my chest when my group presented a 6 month compulsory side project we'd had to do on strategy. And then on Friday I got to visit a high school and mentor students on resume/interview skills. The students cooked us food which was reallly tasty and it was such a rewarding day with great performances. It felt so weird stepping back into high school!
But Friday marked the end of my first year of work (in a way) and that's all my side projects completed so I'm FREEEEEEEEEE *dances*.

What's next? Well I've got a few reviews and my Lyla Payne interview post coming up (finally) and I'm going to tell you all the fun things I did in November!

I'm sooooo excited for the festive season, I've been doing heaps of Christmas shopping. If you follow me on Instagram you'll see all my posts about Christmas trees (I LOVE decorations), and if you follow on Twitter then you'll have seen all my present wrapping spam tweets lel.

I quietly celebrated by 23rd birthday on the 10th (which funnily enough was the last post I did). It's the most low-key I've ever had for a birthday. Thank you so much to Mel @ YA Midnight Reads for the lovely present and my mum for giving me $200 to spend on books - and spend I did hehe.

Mockingjay Part II + Aqua S
Last Sunday I went to see the final Hunger Games movie with Jess @ My Reading Dress. Despite what a lot of people said I absolutely loved Mockingjay Part II. For me, the decider for a book > movie adaption is how well it follows the book and it did this perfectly. It was suspenseful, full of action and kept me at the edge of my seat. I loved the acting, especially Josh Hutcherson and Natalie Dormer. Also Haymitch and Effie whew. Afterwards I got Baileys flavoured ice cream from Aqua S which I must admit was delicious. Side note: Jess and I went to DJs and I picked up another Christmas tree but this one was one of those leafless birch trees with lights - something I've been coveting for years. Random I know.

Hard Rock Cafe
We celebrated a workmate/friend's birthday on Friday and went to Hard Rock Cafe. I ordered the Mushroom and Swiss Cheese burger which was REALLY good. I love mushrooms and I love Swiss cheese, add on meat and I'm set. I can't say I'd go back though. The burger was $20 and I'm pretty sure I could get the same thing for much cheaper elsewhere. The whole menu was very exxy and I didn't think it was worth it. Their service was splendid though, the waiters really funny and nice.

There's my blog woo!

Last Friday was BTCYA (Between the Covers YA - HarperCollins Australia's YA arm) Sydney and I had sooooo much fun. We got to hear about all the fantastic books that are currently out as well as upcoming releases. I'm so excited for all the wonderful books next years, especially The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye which is high fantasy, which y'all know is my favourite genre. I'm also extremely excited for Passenger by Alex Bracken AND I GOT AN ARC. The goodie bags came with ARCs of Passenger - a special Aussie ARC which I'm really pleased about as well as another book (I got Demon Road by Derek Landry) as well the beautiful Ten Thousand Skies Above You poster. It was such a great night with bookish peeps and Terry :D I'm so sad to see Manda (and Tim) go, they are the crux of BTCYA and they're leaving big shoes to fill! The guest author was Jamie Curry, a YouTuber who wrote a memoir. She was really funny and I recommended her a bunch of YA contemporaries. I might post a full breakdown of the night later this week.

Sarah J. Maas
HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY GUACAMOLE. You guys know Sarah is my absolute favourite author and that the Throne of Glass series is basically my favourite series. Meeting Sarah has been my dream for the past 3 years so I can't believe my dream has come true. She is so funny and sweet and lovely, I just loved hearing her speak. Sarah is extremely humble and down to earth and when she signed my book she was like "omg so nice to finally meet you" wherein I died inside and went to heaven. I really hope Sarah comes back to Australia in the future and props to Sonia and the Bloomsbury Sydney team for making this possible.

Books Read
While I didn't read a lot of books in November, the ones I did read were quite massive and had quite a few pages.

  • Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer - I loved seeing all the other characters in this and the progression of Thorne's character
  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson - definitely my favourite Sanderson book so far. Loved the magic system and all the characters.
  • Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - review to come
  • Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer - satisfying end to the series. The thing about Meyer's books is that her heroines don't show their true strength until the next book when we see them from another's perspective. In their own books they're like damsels in distress. Cinder and Kai though so much love for these two.

Book Haul
  • Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford - about time I started on this adult colouring thing. It's oddly therapeutic,
  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I'm collecting these gorgeous editions they're so pretty!
  • Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins - I can't remember where I heard about this but I love the concept of timeless romances and time travel. Also a standalone so yay!
  • Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson - I got a review copy from Simon & Schuster AU when this came out but I've always wanted the hardback because the jacket is awesome - it opens up on the inside to a photograph of Emily and Sloane
  • The Devil You Know by Trish Doller - I LOVE Trish's books. Her debut Something Like Normal is one of the most fab contemporaries ever. Ok so what I don't understand about this is WHY this is a different size to her other 2 books which ARE the same size? It looks weird next to them...
  • The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts - I heard about this at BTCYA and I was so intrigued because it's Aussie YA and set in feudal Japan. I just had to get it at the event!
  • Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson - I'm reading Steelheart atm and I'm SO glad they had the smaller paperback out at the Dymocks sale
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon - I've heard great things about this so it's high time I got my hands on this. I've heard this is becoming a movie too?
  • Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry - it doesn't usually take me this long to get a Katie McGarry book but for some reason I just wasn't in a rush to get this because it wasn't in the PTL universe. I'm still excited to read this because I adore Katie's gritty and edgier YA style
  • Dead Ends by Erin Lange - I haven't heard of this but Mel (YA Midnight Reads) got this for me for my birthday thank you!
  • The Next Together by Lauren James - what was it I was saying about time travel and romance? Yeah. Thanks Mel for this!
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray - I don't care that I don't really love this series because these covers make me love them and I am so invested in these beautiful covers AHAHA
  • Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - yayyy the final Starbound book. Thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me this review copy!
  • Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken - NO WORDS. NONE. ALSO THAT COVER WOW. Thank you, thank you BTCYA for this ARC.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - I've heard so much about this graphic novel (and was doubly convinced after BTCYA) I needed it in my life
  • The Red Queen (Obernewtyn Chronicles #7) by Isobelle Carmody - thanks Penguin Teen Australia for sending me this monster of a book. It is seriously massif. Like do you even lift?
  • Obernewtyn (Obernewtyn Chronicles #1) by Isobelle Carmody - I guess I have to start the series now aye? At least I don't have to wait 28 years O_O
  • The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater - you guys this whole hardback boxset was $20.99 on Booktopia and I had free shipping. Yes you heard right. I don't care that I already own Shiver in paperback and I never finished it, this was too good of a deal to pass up
  • Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer - THIS TOOK ME A WHOLE WEEK TO FIND HOLY MOLY. And I devoured it. It was soooo good.
Reading: Broken at Love (Whitman University #1) by Lyla Payne // Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderon
Listening To: What a Feeling by One Direction (THANKS JESS FOR GETTING ME OBSESSED)
Watching; Flesh and Bone - I found this on Stan, it's a new mini-series about ballet. It's dark and graphic but I'm loving it so far.

Ok well that's me. LOL that was long. Kbye.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your Favourite Genre

As much as I enjoy any good book, I get this immense joy when I immerse myself in a high fantasy novel.

I'm nearly finished with Brandon Sanderson's Elantris and ever since I picked it up I haven't been able to put it down - that being said, it's taken me quite a while to read it because wooooorrrrkkkk :c I notice I always feel this way when I read a high (epic?) fantasy book with lots of magic - Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses (duh), Uprooted, any of Brandon Sanderson's books. I don't ever really feel as happy when I read a contemporary and I wondered why.

The thing with contemporaries for me is this - they deal with common problems set in my world. Yes this makes them relatable. But it also makes me feel exhausted emotionally because I deal with a lot of problems in everyday life and reading a contemporary is just like stepping out my door into real life. And a lot of the time I don't want to deal with real life (something personal about me: dealing with people actually really exhausts me which is why I basically never go out on weekends). I want to escape my problems but reading a contemporary usually makes me think about these.

This is also why post-apocalyptic/sci-fi doesn't always appeal to me too. Most settings resemble our world to some degree but it's a dystopia. These books remind me of all the ways the world can go wrong. It brings to light what humanity can become, how when stripped bare we are mainly selfish and self-preserving. Sure it also brings to light hope but we have enough disasters/issues in the world right now so I don't want to be reading about what else can go wrong.

That being said I do enjoy my share of contemporaries and post-apocalyptic - some of my favourite books are in these genres.

But then there's high fantasy...

High/epic fantasy is 100% my favourite genre without a doubt, Here is a wholly imagined world with no rules or boundaries. My problems seem small compared to the characters in these books. There's limitless possibilities and my favourite ones have complex magic systems which really make the world something I can barely fathom. I love that this world is born from someone's mind and the settings are intricate and lush. I won't know what will happen next so I'm kept guessing until the last page. (This also why I love Final Fantasy/Kingdom Hearts - magic and complex story lines in beautiful worlds.) When I escape into a high fantasy world, I become the character and I'm in that world and real life just fades away into something insignificant - I feel like I've become part of something epic? Wow that sounds weird. Anyway yes MAGIC. Funnily enough I don't like high fantasies that lack magic (shhh but I'm struggling to get through Game of Thrones and An Ember in the Ashes).

Do you have a particular genre? Any particular reason why?

Some of my favourite high fantasy:

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - I love Sarah's lush writing in this and the magic becomes more and more intense as the books progress
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses - Beauty and Beast retelling but with fey folklore
  • Uprooted - the magic in this is lovely I don't know just read it
  • Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson - metals magic system is so well thought out and complex THIS TRILOGY <3
  • Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson - this one has amazing character development with very unique magic
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson - while one of the characters pissed me off too much to make me love this, the magic system is fabulous in this. It uses COLOUR. Love love love.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - this series went downhill for me but I still love it and the first book is wonderful. Very mysterious and I love the villain and the magic classes are cool
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers - assassins and serving Death and poisons yesyesyes
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge - another Beauty and the Beast retelling but with slight Greek influences and this one has magic and there's this really epic feel to it
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta - the first in her Lumatere Chronicles it's not extremely magic focused but there's a Tempest and prophecies and I love it. I still need to finish this trilogy off ahhh
Not all high fantasy but has amazing world building and fabulous paranormal/magic systems and settings to get lost in
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon - clairvoyants  like you've never read them before in a dystopian world. Phenomenal world building.
  • The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa - I adored the romance in this actually and I love the way Julie's written the Nevernever. 
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab - I could lope this in with high fantasy but this one is parallel worlds and one is based off 19th century England. Either way PARALLEL WORLDS that are SO well thought out and the magic to travel through these wow
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor - angels and demons but not as we know them. Laini's beautiful writing set against the backdrop of Prague. THIS SERIES UGH.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh - a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights it's got curses and not so much magic but it's so angsty and beautifully written

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October Wrap-Up

Eh October ended? How what? I just can;t get over how quickly time flies. I guess it's time to recap the October reading month then!

I read a total of 5 books in October and they were generally quite enjoyable

  • Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan - I was pleasantly surprised by Magnus, my review here
  • What We Left Behind by Robin Talley - this was highly disappointing, read my review here
  • Angel (Angel #1) by LA Weatherly - a bit overhyped for me. The romance was waaaay too sappy
  • Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne - so impressed by this different and sweet style of NA. I'm definitely checking out more of Lyla's stuff.
  • Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff- of course. What else would I rate it?

I actually loved Illuminae so much I made some graphics for it. If you'd like a particular size for a wallpaper or something just leave a comment and I can make it for you :)

These are some of my favourite quotes from the book. Ezra is smooth guys. So smooth. His charm is off the charts.

 iPhone 5/5s/6/6s wallpaper

Books I bought and received:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey
  • Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes #2) by Sara Raasch
  • The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu - shit you guys do NOT read the synopsis for this if you haven't read TYE. I got spoiled so badly like this
  • The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler - I have heard nothing but praise for this
  • Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1) by CS Pacat - I saw a post about this on tumblr and had to get it
  • Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - I went to the signing for this yay
  • Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall - I got this as a surprise in the mail from PanMac Aus, I love that the cover is the same style as A Little Something Different
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord - thanks Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney
  • Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers - thanks Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney
  • Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George - thanks Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney
  • Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne (manuscript) - thanks Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney

As I mentioned last week, I got to interview Lyla Payne when she came to Sydney, thanks to Sonia and Bloomsbury Sydney (Genevieve!). Sonia also gave us an awesome bag of goodies.

Highlights - I mentioned these in my previous weekly wrap-ups
  • Dinner and dessert with Jess @ My Reading Dress
  • BIGBANG [MADE] tour in Sydney concert
  • Interviewing Lyla Payne with Joy @ Thoughts by J at the Bloomsbury Sydney office
  • Illuminae launch party at Dymocks Sydney
  • The Imperial Russian Ballet Company performing Swan Lake
  • Helping out with a fundraiser trivia night where I also designed the website for collecting donations, selling raffle tickets and auction items - if you'd like to read about the cause and donate, click here

Currently Reading: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer - preparing for Winter!
Watching: I just recently finished watching the Korean drama Who Are You: School 2015. It was SO good. It breaks all the K-drama stereotypes with a love square. It's about high school life and bullying and it's just realistic and on point.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Weekly Lowdown #4

Hi guys wow how is it the last week of October already? Sorry I didn't do a wrap up last week I was recovering from the BIGBANG concert last week haha!

BIGBANG 2015 World Tour [MADE] in Sydney
Which means the first thing I'll talk about is the concert! Y'all know I'm a massive K-pop fan and have been for the past 9 years. The first K-pop song I ever fell in love with and actually got me into K-pop was BIGBANG's Lies. You don't even know how excited I was when it was announced they'd added an Australian leg to their MADE tour! There was a point when it seemed it wasn't going to happen and then BAM I was sitting in Allphones Arena with workmates and we were screaming for TOP BIGBANG. They went all out and it was beyond fabulous. We gave them a yellow ocean of VIPs. It was the first K-pop concert since the 2011 K-pop Fest in Sydney that we were allowed to take photos so I certainly took my fair share. I was actually quite devastated they didn't sing Lies though. No Lies and no Let's Not Fall in Love which is one of their newest songs I love. I haven't loved BIGBANG as much in recent years to be honest. Their style has changed into more hip-hop/rap so their songs haven't really grabbed my attention lately. Let's Not Fall in Love was the first in years (probably since Haru Haru in 2008) so it was really sad they didn't sing it. But they did sing Haru Haru and we basically sang the song for them. Otherwise a stellar concert AND MY TOP AHAHAHA OF COURSE I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT TOP.  I had to try and minimise my screaming because people around me were recording and I didn't want my voice to be in people's vids but oh holy sweet baby Jesus T O P. I have so much love for this man. He is sexy beyond words.

The Imperial Russian Ballet Swan Lake
I went to watch the Imperial Russian Ballet Company perform Swan Lake at the State Theatre yesterday and OH. MY. GOODNESS. I was blown away. Best ballet I've seen yet. It trumped Sleeping Beauty (Moscow Ballet) earlier this year by far. I love watching ballet and I had high hopes for the most performed ballet in history. My expectations were exceeded. I remember I just wasn't that impressed by Sleeping Beauty (I'm one for fancy/complicated sequences with lots of pirouettes, fouettes etc.) but Swan Lake wow. The dancing was amazing. I love it when the corps de ballet are in sync and the four little swans bit was so beautiful. Then the dark swan's 32 fouettes was STUNNING. She kept spinning and spinning and the whole audience was applauding. I probably don't even make sense but basically it was danced so beautifully I was pretty emotional and nearly moved to tears. They're coming back next year for The Nutcracker which I might be even more excited about.

Stitch Bar
Colleagues took me to this hole in the ground (it's literally underground) bar last week and I had the most delicious cheeseburger. The bar was heaps dark but had this really cool vintage vibe with old photographs framed all over their walls and dripping candelabras. The cheeseburger is a must try you guys. They used a sauce that gives Maccas Big Mac sauce a run for their money. I also got some cocktail that had grapefruit sorbet which tasted refreshing and was just on point. Overall, a really fantastic meal and I'd go back again to try the rest of their menu.

I was extremely impressed by this Jap restaurant. I ordered the chicken katsu udon which is fried chicken and it was so yummy yummy yummy. And for $12.50 it was a good sized portion (not too small and not gigantic) that filled me up. Would go again.

Other joints I re-visited were Vapiano and David Jones Food Hall (pasta bar). The DJ's pasta bar is a must to sate my pasta cravings.

Interview with Lyla Payne
I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to interview Lyla Payne at the Bloomsbury Sydney office. Joy @ Thoughts by J and I went over on Tuesday to interview Lyla who's visiting Australia. Lyla is so nice and funny and I'll have my interview up in November along with my review of her Christmas book Mistletoe and Mr. Right/Sleigh Bells and Second Chances - which I might add is SO swoony and sweet and I adored it. Lyla's answers made me really want to read more of her NA books which means I must go buy her Whitman University series now! Thank you SO much to the Bloomsbury Sydney team, especially Sonia and Genevieve for organising and facilitating. And thank you THANK YOU for the amazing goody bag <3

Illuminae Sydney Launch
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's much anticipated Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) was released this week and they came to Dymocks Sydney for their launch. I'm so happy to have a personalised copy! I accidentally whacked Jay in the head for Joy's photo but the pose was worth it (;

I finally finished What We Left Behind by Robin Talley and reviewed it here. Was not impressed sadly.

Books I got
  • Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1) by CS Pacat - I've heard amazing things about this!
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury - Been meaning to read this for ages and this gorgeous edition was on sale
  • Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - THIS BOOK. THE INSIDE OMG

From Bloomsbury Sydney:
  • Tote bag for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated edition
  • Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers - omg it's hardback
  • Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George - this sounds so good and the cover wow and HARDBACK
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord - !!! IT'S EMERY LORD. HEAVY BREATHING.
  • Queen of Shadows signed bookplate - I'll be giving this away at some point :D

Thank you so much Sonia/Bloomsbury Sydney for these beautiful goodies.
Currently Reading: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Tunes: Let's Not Fall in Love by BIGBANG

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Firstly, thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: October 7 - 17 2015
Date Released: October 19th 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen Australia
Product Page: What We Left Behind on Harlequin Teen Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn't enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begin to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?"


What We Left Behind started with a prologue of instalove. Alarm bells were going off in my head when I read this. I decided to give WWLB the benefit of the doubt as I progressed through the first chapter because this book deals with very important issues. Transgender/genderqueer books are rare and few, and pretty much non-existent in YA. I’m not at all knowledgeable about this community of people who don’t identify with the sex they were born with. As such I thought by reading WWLB I would have a better understanding of genderqueer people and what they have to face.

What I got instead were two teenage girls going off to college and both wallowing in self-pity. We have Toni who identifies with being genderqueer (somewhat, I’ll get onto this later) and her (his?) high school sweetheart Gretchen who’s all sorts of supportive and an amazing girlfriend. They’re hailed as the perfect couple but there’s trouble in paradise when they go to college in different states and find their own friends. Toni finds the genderqueer community at Harvard and fits right in, while Gretchen just sort of trudges through her college life at NYU.

In reality this isn’t about Toni and Gretchen. It’s really about Toni and the effect her/his selfishness has on those around them. Honestly Toni got worse and worse for me throughout the book. I wanted to shake this girl/guy so hard. They’re struggling to figure out where they fit in on the gender scale and says they’re non-binary (identifying as neither male or female) which is fine by me. But she/he decides to lecture everybody else on this. Toni goes on and on about how they hate gender pronouns (I just went through this whole paragraph editing because I wrote ‘she’) and I swear to god every time I read from their perspective I felt like I was getting a textbook lecture. Yes you’re struggling with your identity Toni, yes everybody is different, but no you are NOT the centre of the world. Toni has this amazing support network of other transgender and genderqueer students as soon as she/he enters Harvard but feels they too need to be lectured. That nobody should be using gender pronouns. This pissed me off because some of those people clearly wanted to identify as a particular gender and Toni was denying them that which they had struggled so much to reach. It was like Toni’s opinion of not fitting in a particular gender applied to everybody but nobody else understood her/him. As a result Toni pushes away anybody who isn’t part of his/her community and assumes such outsiders couldn’t ever possibly understand what he/she is going through. No consideration for other people’s feelings whatsoever. Nope. This selfishness. Went. On. For. The. Whole. Damn. Book.

Poor Gretchen tries to understand what Toni is going through. Gretch is actually the most supportive girlfriend ever. She’s always thinking about what she’s saying so as not to offend Toni, she stops using gender pronouns too. I really liked Gretchen as a person overall. She’s very selfless but at the same time a bit of a doormat. It annoyed me the way she let other people walk over her (especially Toni). However, she does grow as a person and I liked her character development towards the end of the book.

I generally liked the supporting characters, especially Toni’s friends. I liked Derek’s enthusiasm and being able to see Eli’s transition – his struggles and the family aspect. I thought that, of Toni’s friends, Nance was the most realistic. Nance wasn’t afraid to tell Toni that she thought Toni was acting all high and mighty. On Gretchen’s side we got very little. She had one friend and one roommate and I would’ve liked more of this. What I didn’t like about the secondary characters was that anybody who was straight/cis was portrayed as ignorant and/or hateful, even the nicer characters (or they barely appeared in the book). Like what, we’re not all like that. Some of us want to understand (hence why I read this book).

Romance wise I just did not get the feels. I was just annoyed at Toni because Gretchen kept giving and Toni kept taking and not giving back. That is not how relationships work. I have nothing more to say about this because the romance just didn’t work for me.

Plot wise, the story is just the progression through the school year following Toni as they try to find their identity with bits of Gretchen interspersed. I thought there could have been a whole lot more world-building with regards to college life and the difference between Harvard and NYU.

And let’s also add in that as genderqueer/transgender representation goes, this book was centred on a college community within Harvard. All these students are privileged either way. So what, you might think, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same problems as others. But being privileged changes many things. Toni’s friends and himself/herself included were loaded. They could all afford to buy the things they needed/wanted and pay for doctors/treatment. Toni took their family’s money for granted and would just spend and spend their parent’s credit card. Toni had no job, couldn’t technically support himself/herself (most people I know had their own income in college, myself included) and I thought that while they were struggling with gender identity, being affluent meant they were ignorant to a whole lot of other issues. I mean this isn’t even that important/doesn’t really relate to the book but it was another thing that ticked me off.

I felt that What We Left Behind could have been a really good book because the premise is fantastic, addressing a topic that’s not widely talked about in YA. Sadly it just fell short and I couldn’t enjoy it at all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Weekly Lowdown #3

Hello October and let's take a short trip back to Hogwarts.

Firstly, how is it October already?! Where has the time gone? It's October 2015 (well duh you must be thinking) but the date holds significance for me. 5 years ago I sat my HSC exams. 5 years ago I was one of many students in NSW stressing about a series of exams that I thought would ultimately define my future. Looking back, maybe I could have studied a little harder and gamed a little less - button mashing is a great stress reliever. I think I tried too hard in Years 7-10 and by Year 11 and 12 I was just burnt out and gave up lol. What's done is done and I'm in a pretty decent place now. I wish I could go back to my 17 year old self and tell her not to worry so much, that the HSC is not the "be all and end all" as my maths teacher used to try to tell us, and that everything would be ok. But then if I hadn't tried so hard would I be where I am today? Either way, I want to wish all the students sitting their HSC/VCE (OWL/NEWTs?) the best of luck. Don't stress, just do your best and it'll be all right!

This week's wrap-up is a short one from me. Sadly no new food places because I had so many meetings this week, I was running between them and stuffing in a short 10min Maccas/Subway lunch.

  • The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey - I was bumming around in Kino on Friday and ran into one my favourite sales assistants there and he recommended this to me. It looks so intriguing so I was like yup I'm going to pick this up
  • Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan - I was contemplating buying the US hardcover (I still might) when I got this in the mail on Friday! Thank you so much Penguin Teen Aus for sending me this finished copy. You can read my gushing review here.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition - YEWWWWWWWWWWWW HOGWARTS. It's beautiful inside. BEAUTIFUL I SAY. Expect the page with all the spiders. That one isn't beautiful. Nope.

Currently Reading: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley - I am struggling so hard with this book I started another - Angel by LA Weatherly. I still haven't finished In the Afterlight either ;____;
Tunes: My trance favourite this week is Restless Hearts by Mark Sixma & Emma Hewitt // Reset by Tiger JK feat. Jinsil my friend introduced to me and is the OST for a drama which I decided to look up and just started watching
Watching: Quantico is an addictive new American TV show. Seriously go check it out // Who Are You: School 2015 a K-drama mystery about high school life