Harry Potter Spells Book Tag

Saturday, 15 July 2017

It's been ages since I've done a book tag post so I'm so glad to have the opportunity to do this one (*especially* since the prompts are Harry Potter themed!). Thanks to the lovely Cass @ Words on Paper for tagging me - I'll be passing it on to any other bloggers who want to participate.

1. Expecto Patronum
A childhood book connected to good memories

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This was the first 'classic' book I read as a child, and watching the recent Netflix series 'Anne with an E' brought back all those fond memories. 

2. Expelliarmus
A book that took you by surprise

In The Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker

I still think that In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker is one of, if not the most original YA novel I've read. It completely surprised me and was nothing like what I had expected...but left me awestruck. 

3. Prior Incantato
The last book you read

A Shadow's Breath by Nicole Hayes
As I said in my review, this book took my breath away - it is split between the then and now surrounding a car accident, and delves deep into the relationships teens have with their families, survival and snatching at a faint glimmer of hope. 

4. Alohamora
A book that introduced you to a genre that you had not considered before

Formaldehyde by Jane Rawson

It's not exactly a genre, but I've been finding a new appreciation for novellas which pack a punch. I discovered Formaldehyde at the library - a tiny book wedged between a couple of bulky hardcovers, and thought I'd give it a chance. Sometimes it's the stories you don't have any expectations for which impress you the most. This clever gem is short and full of wit - don't let the creepy cover put you off!

5. Riddikulus
A funny book you've read

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

Any of the Chuck Palahniuk books I've read (Fight Club, Survivor, Pygmy) would fill this space, but I've decided to go with the one I was introduced to first. His work is bizarre, satirical, and darkly comedic. Half the time you might not know what to think, but I will admit that there are always some phrases thrown in you can't help but have a laugh at. 

6. Sonorus
A book you think everybody should know about

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the most moving coming-of-age novels I've read. It's a modern classic for good reason, and I'm hoping to revisit it soon.

7. Obliviate
A book or spoiler you would like to forget having read

The Troop by Nick Cutter

Don't get me wrong - Nick Cutter can write...and I did find the last parts of this book very addictive. When it comes down to it though, The Troop was so disturbing it is not something I will every be re-reading again *shudders*. 

8. Imperio
A book you had to read for school

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I ended up really enjoying most of the prescribed reading we had to do at school, and this was one of those. It definitely made me see the world in a different light, and for that I'l always remember it. 

9. Crucio
A book that was painful to read

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

I've got nothing against existentialism, but this absurdist play was one I just could not get into. I crawled through it, but it just wasn't for me. 

10. Avada Kedavra
A book that could kill

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Outlander series is pretty hefty, weighing it at almost a thousand pages each...you definitely wouldn't die from boredom with them though. 

11. Accio
A book you'd always like to have with you

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
Whenever you need some magic to make a dull day better, Harry Potter is always a perfect choice!

Over to you - what do you think of my picks? What books would you have chosen for the prompts?

I tag:

Bec/Alise @ Reader's Wonderland
Zoe @ Zoe Reads
Kelly @ Diva Booknerd

Waiting on Wednesday: Force of Nature

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are waiting to read. This week I've picked Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

The Dry was the thriller of the year in 2016, and I have to say - it lived up to the hype. The stakes are high for Jane Harper in this follow-up, but I have no doubt it's going to be on the bestseller lists as soon as it hits the shelves.

Releasing 26th September 2017 from Pan Macmillan

{Blog Tour} Mini Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

Thursday, 6 July 2017

If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak
Released: 1st July 2017
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 344
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home?

Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.

 As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

If Birds Fly Back is a sweet and heartfelt YA contemporary romance where two teens who are missing important people in their lives find unexpected support in each other. While it did take a little while for me to warm up to the story and connect to the characters, once I did I could see why this book has been getting so much positive feedback - the characters are authentic and this blossoming summer romance is full of adorable moments. 

The title of this book and its meaning definitely comes into the spotlight within the plot, through continuing symbolism which borders on being poetic while retaining a playful voice through Linny and Sebastian's narration. The writing style reflects how these young people feel about their situations in terms of how they think and speak, but I also liked the inclusion of Linny's budding screenplay based on Grace's disappearance and Sebastian's quotations on 'A Brief Compendium of Astrophysical Curiosities'. It's these quirks and unique interests of the characters which made them seem more realistic. Their relationship as it developed may not have been on a total swoon-worthy level, but it was undeniably cute in the best possible nerdy way.  


In all, If Birds Fly Back is a cute, feel-good story about coming into your own place on life's stage and finding someone to share that with. While there may be some missing pieces in what was meant to be the script, this novel shows that with a fresh outlook and new experiences, there is always hope that the next page will bring better days. 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Grip of It

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are waiting to read. This week I've picked The Grip of It by Jac Jemc.

A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple who purchase and live in a haunted house.

Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It tells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings.

The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink.

Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James. Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, mapping itself onto bodies and the relationships we cherish.

A psychological novel with a haunted house - now that's a concept which sounds like it has the potential to make a really fascinating read. I stumbled across this book on goodreads when I was looking for short story collections and saw that Jac Jemc's A Different Bed Every Time had received positive reviews. I'm hoping I get to read both of these books soon!

Releasing 1st August 2017 from FSG Originals

#LoveOzYABloggers - High School

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

High School

Whether it was a time where you made your closest friends, became the teacher's favourite and got straight-A's, or floated through the years until you could finally escape and begin adulthood, high school is sure to be a memorable experience for most of us. These examples of Aussie YA present some varied perspectives of the school yard, and how teens have coped with its highs and lows. 

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

It's one of the most prominent and iconic coming-of-age novels on the Aussie YA scene, and for good reason. Looking for Alibrandi is not only a story which covers the ups and downs of high school life in the 'all-important' final year, but an insightful take on relationships and balancing the ideals of your cultural identity with your own values.

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Sarah Ayoub's latest release (see also her first novel Hate is Such a Strong Word) is also set in the tumultuous time of year twelve, where five very different teens are forced to work together to create the yearbook. This book captures both the angst which comes with attempting to find your place in the world, and the unlikely friendships we make along the way.

My Best Friend is a Goddess by Tara Eglington

Tara Eglington always impresses with reads that are both light enough to put a smile on your face, and balanced by an exploration of the real experiences that many teenage girls can identify with. In My Best Friend is a Goddess, friendships are put to the test and social media creates the gossip which impacts the girls' self-esteem and status on the social ladder. Overall it's an adorable read with an important message. 

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with News and Events, or submit your own!

Review & Author Interview: A Shadow's Breath by Nicole Hayes + GIVEAWAY

Saturday, 1 July 2017

A Shadow's Breath by Nicole Hayes
Released: 30th January 2017
Published by: Penguin Random House Australia
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 316
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Then, things were looking up for Tessa. Her mum was finally getting her life back on track. Tessa had started seeing Nick. She was making new friends. She'd even begun to paint again.

Now, Tessa and Nick are trapped in the car after a corner taken too fast. Injured, stranded in the wilderness, at the mercy of the elements, the question becomes one of survival. But Tessa isn't sure she wants to be found.

Not after what she saw. Not after what she remembered.
A Shadow's Breath actually took my breath away. In this poignant and emotional gem of a read, Nicole Hayes has struck the perfect balance between the gripping suspense of a survival situation and a sensitivity in perceiving her protagonist's life in the past and present. Effortlessly woven between 'then' in the events leading to the car accident and 'now' in the harsh wilderness of the Australian bush, this is the type of book that delves deeper than expected into the broad impact of an unstable life at home, the social strains within a friendship group and the volatility of a first love. This is a book you will remember.

She closes her eyes, lets the lull and pull of the water buoy her before she slips under again. She opens her eyes and peers into the black. Light filters through the ripples, dust flecks suspended like a thousand tiny stars. 

The beauty and brutality of the Australian wilderness is captured in equal measure within A Shadow's Breath. Following the accident, for Tess and Nick survival is the name of the game, and yet there is an underlying allure to the ruggedness of the landscape in the writing style. You are instantly transported into the disorienting mess of greenery, and feel the same sense of urgency as the characters attempting to find their way out of a situation where the cards are stacked well and truly against them. However, there are moments where you are reading a paragraph which so eloquently describes the vastness of a cerulean blue sky, and with it the possibility of escape. Tess and Nick were both fleshed out as very realistic characters in a demanding, high-pressure situation. It is here where their fears were brought to the surface, tensions reached an all-time high and the story held some of its deepest moments which left me reeling.

But that feeling has never left her - the rush of letting go - and it's the same feeling that she has now. But she knows that if she truly lets go this time, lets her body stop moving and her limbs go limp, they won't rise again. She'll be stuck there, in the middle of nowhere, so far from the things that matter that she might as well have lived an entire life alone.

Tessa's life before is brought into focus in the 'then' sections, where the repercussions of a traumatic event in her past and the impact of her mother's drinking are explored. It is not often that a YA novel will enter this territory, so it was interesting to see an author take it on in this context. The mother-daughter relationship at its most unpredictable, delicate and tender is written with a clarity here that is well executed and moving. Not only that, but the friendships Tessa has, especially with Yuki her best friend and how that is challenged when Tessa feels herself becoming socially isolated, was something which I think some readers could definitely relate to. Throughout the plot she is questioning the type of person she wants to be, perhaps whether she could pursue her passion for art as a career, and how Nick's dreams could fit into her life as well. The need to make big life decisions and a glimpse at moving forward into a more positive space are once again challenges which readers may find reflected in their own experiences.


What is special about A Shadow's Breath is the tender exploration of a perilous situation. There is more than one shocking twist to be found within these pages for sure, but the real triumph here is where Hayes has demonstrated our capacity to mend relationships with those who are closest to us.

Author Interview with Nicole Hayes

How did you find your writing process and style differed in A Shadows Breath in comparison to The Whole of My World and One True Thing?

So different! Structurally, A Shadow’s Breath is far more complicated from the writer’s point of view. It’s fairly straightforward for the reader – alternating past and present narratives that feed into and from each other until they converge near the end. So it’s easy to follow for the reader. At least, I hope it is! But to write this structure – to ensure both narratives are engaging and compelling -- that each storyline earns its own space -- is actually tricky to pull off. While The Whole of My World flew out of me every time I rewrote it – and that was many, many times over the years ­– and One True Thing – eventually – followed a straightforward chronology, A Shadow’s Breath was more difficult from start to finish. And, perhaps not surprisingly, it was incredibly satisfying when I got there. I had no idea if the book would be popular or well received, but I knew, from a writing perspective, I’d managed to do something I’d worried I couldn’t. And that felt fantastic!

Since then I’ve garnered more objectivity about the story, and can see how it works together. Yet, oddly, I feel a deeper connection with these characters now than I did while I was actually writing it. Now, when I read back, I can see Tessa and her mum, Nick and Yuki, Lara and Zane, and Yuki’s family. They feel so real and close to me. It’s crazy! It’s not usually how it works – the writing is when the connection is deepest, ordinarily. But I think because the material is so challenging and difficult that I had to protect myself, in some ways, so they didn’t hurt me too much!

What is your favourite aspect of the Australian landscape?

The colours. The light. The vastness. The disparity. Wait. You wanted one thing? Okay, so how it all works together to create this sense of endlessness. Timelessness. Space. It’s such a simple thing, really. Survival in the bush is all about food and water and shade and shelter, and yet beneath the simplicity of that, there are so many contradictions and complexities. There’s the psychology of being so far from everything, the fear of what might be lurking ahead, and all of those dangers, small and large, waiting around every corner, under every rock. All of it hidden behind such extraordinary beauty. Even the desert, which can feel and seem lifeless, dead even, is actually teeming with life.

But most of all, it’s the isolation. When you’re alone in the Australian bush, it feels like you’re the only person left on Earth. And there’s something almost spiritual about that.

Without giving too much away, is there a particular moment in A Shadow’s Breath which really made an impact on you while writing it?

There were many, and it’s really hard to write about this novel without spoilers, but seeing Tessa and her mum take those first tentative steps towards trusting each other again stand out to me. Watching Ellen try to make amends, the careful, subtle investment of her love and herself into the house, for example – buying cushions from the op shop, taking the time to clean windows, mow the lawn, cook meals from scratch – all the stuff that had been neglected for so long. I think it’s particularly poignant in the scene when Tessa takes all of this in: her mum’s asleep on the couch, the colour and warmth of the living room embrace her, and then that sleepy ease between them when Ellen wakes up… It makes me cry every single time. Every. Single. Time.

Through Tessa’s experience and home life we were given glimpses into how the issues of alcoholism and domestic violence have flow-on effects which often reach wider than we may think. How important was it for you to include these elements in the storyline?

The ripple effect and the repercussions of adult choices and parental problems on their teen children drives much of my writing. It’s such a tough spot to be in when you’re a teen. You’re at the coalface of life, with all the access, all the blowback, all the fallout, but very little control over the course your family takes. Particularly in dysfunctional families where issues like alcohol and drug abuse – any kind of abuse – are so damaging and dangerous. It’s worse for the innocent bystanders – the kids, the spouse, the extended family members -- than for the perpetrators themselves. This is multiplied tenfold when you’re an only child, or you are somewhat isolated from other family support. And the damage continues long after the family falls apart or the perpetrator is removed. Saddest of all, it can transcend distance and time, even generations.

For Tessa, the only model she has of a functional family are her best friend Yuki’s family, and some vague memories of her own life before her father fell ill – memories that we can’t entirely trust, given how far back they go. Her compass is all messed up. She doesn’t know how or who she can trust. For a time, she trusts no one.

But there is a way out – that was the most important thing for me to express through A Shadow’s Breath. The way out is not obvious and it’s not easy, and sometimes it requires enormous courage from those least equipped to find it. But it’s there. There’s hope. Always, always, there’s hope.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an author which you could pass on?

Rather than write what you know, as we’re so often told, write what you love. Or care passionately about. You can always research something that isn’t familiar, or is new or foreign to you, but it has to be something that matters deeply or else you’ll run out of steam, either in the process of writing the story or in the revision or publicity stages. Plus, readers see through you when you’re faking it on the page. Every time. On a practical level, when you write a book, you live with the subject matter for many, many years, even after publication. You want to really care about the subject if you’re going to have to keep talking about it for years after. That, or be an excellent actor!

Are you working on anything new at the moment you could tell us about?

I’m some way into a new YA novel, but I’m still not sure entirely what it’s about! Or I suspect I know, but I’m too superstitious to say it out loud before I’ve completed the first draft. But it’s exciting and I can’t wait to get back into it. So… Watch this space!
When Nicole Hayes isn't yelling at the Hawks on TV or sharing hosting duties on the all-female AFL podcast, The Outer Sanctum, she teaches writing and writes fiction, essays and scripts. Her debut novel, The Whole of My World, was published in 2013 and was shortlisted for a Young Australians Best Book Award and longlisted for the Gold Inky Award.

One True Thing, Nicole's second novel, won the Children's Peace Literature Award, is a CBCA Notable Book and was shortlisted for the WA Premier's Book Awards. She has also co-edited an anthology of footy stories, From the Outer: Footy Like You've Never Heard It, with Alicia Sometimes. Nicole lives in Melbourne with her husband, two daughters and a dog called Brody.

Say hi at nicolehayesauthor.com or tweet @nichmelbourne.
For more about Nicole's writing process for A Shadow's Breath, you can check out her guest post over at the Aussie YA Bloggers and Readers site. 



Entries are closing soon so get in quick for a chance to win a $20 voucher for an Australian bookstore AND two Nicole Hayes novels!
Giveaway alert! 'A Shadow's Breath' is an amazing #LoveOzYA novel by Nicole Hayes and now Aussie readers can have the opportunity to win more of her books *PLUS* a bookish gift voucher through our photo comp... . . 📒Main Rule: Include in your photo the cover of A Shadow's Breath - it can be through your own copy, one from the library or a digital image. Feel free to get creative with a theme that takes inspiration from the title - the most creative photo wins! . . 📒The Prize: Any 2 novels by Nicole Hayes (choose from A Shadow's Breath ● One True Thing ● The Whole of My World) AND: - A $20 voucher for an Australian bookstore . . 📒Open to entries here or on twitter, just make sure to use the #ashadowsbreathcontest hashtag in your posts so Nicole can see them! . . 📒Open to Australian residents only, competition closes on 10th July . . [ Stay tuned for some blog posts happening soon and more opportunities to win a copy of 'A Shadow's Breath' over at @divabooknerd @ausyabloggers and my blog! ]
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