Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Wrap-Up

And that's January done and dusted. I MEAN WHAT? You guys... there are 11 months left of 2016... I feel like I'm still living in 2012 or something LOL. This month has flown by, 2015 has flown by... just everything flies. Jaz flies. I wish.

First month of 2016, ok let's wrap it up!

New Zealand
Oh and did I go places. I did a 10 day tour of New Zealand's North and South Island and it was BEAUTIFUL. The tour itself (the company) were absolutely atrocious but company and actual NZ are mutually exclusive.
Day 1: Auckland! We sort of just walked around the city after dinner but nothing much was open since it was Christmas
Day 2: Waitomo Glowworm Caves and HOBBITON!!! 2h tour walking around seeing the beautiful Hobbit holes and drinking ale in the Green Dragon Inn. You jelly? Then at night we went to a sulphuric mud bath and springs!
Day 3: The Redwoods at Rotorua (massively tall trees) and then the Pohutu Geyser which spat out sulphuric mud
Day 4: Christchurch! Walking around seeing the rebuild efforts after the 2011 earthquakes. Visiting the Canterbury Museum which some really amazing exhibits including a Leonardo da Vinci one. Then to a beautiful rose garden before we reached Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki later that night. These lakes are astonishingly blue and the water is so clear. Just beautiful, especially with the alps in the distance.
Day 5: Mount Cook. Went on a helicopter for the very first time on a tour of Mount Cook National Park. Got to see the Ben Ohau Mountains and glaciers from above as well as landing on snow high up in the mountains! One of the best experiences of my life. Then we went to the Puzzling World at Wanaka which had these weird and whacky things like leaning towers and mazes.
Day 6: Queenstown <3 took the Skyline gondola up to see Queenstown from above and then at midday we went on the TSS Earnslaw which is a steamship that's as old as the Titanic (1912). It took us across Lake Wakatipu (the lake at Queenstown) and then dropped us off for a BBQ buffet lunch. Best. Buffet. Ever. I have never had such delicious grilled chicken in my life. And that pork belly nomnom. I didn't take any photos because I was too hungry and it disappeared off my plate every time before I could remember to take photos. Oops. I somehow also managed to do some shopping at shops we have here in Sydney (don't ask) but also got a Cookie Time haul. YOU GUYS THESE COOKIES ARE AMAZING. If you ever go Queenstown you must go to Cookie Time and buy cookies there. The range at their super markets don't compare.
Day 7: The tour stuffed up so we ended up in Invercargill at the Bluff which is the southernmost point of NZ! Then we got to Te Anau and spent NYE there. Watched fireworks from the lake shore and they were beautiful and we were so close!
Day 8: Happy New Year! Was extremely happy to spend the day cruising through the stunning, breathtaking, exceptionally beautiful Milford Sound. I'm told that we were extremely lucky to have complete blue skies. I got douses by a waterfall at some point hehe.
Day 9: Dunedin where we saw some road that was famous for being really steep? Weird. And went to see the Moeraki Boulders which are these interesting very round boulders on a beach.
Day 10: Back to Christchurch and it's our last day. It's raining but we take a tram touring the city before we hop on a plane back for Sydney.

I'm so happy that our 10 days there were all sunny. If it had been even slightly cloudy, the helitour would never have happened and none of my photos would've turned out so nice LOL. I definitely want to go back to New Zealand to see how Christchurch looks after it's finished being rebuilt, go see the Tasman glacier, and definitely go back to Queenstown because I loved the vibe there.

The Palace Tea Room QVB
During the first week back (at work) my work mates and I were stumped at what to eat for lunch. We decided on high tea but the QVB Tea Room was full so we ended up downstairs at the Palace Tea Room which was just as beautiful! The food was really nice and as with high tea, had everybody struggling to finish by the end. The difference between this place and the QVB Tea Room is that each person gets their own little stand of food whereas upstairs, you share with someone else. The service was fabulous and I loved the luxurious decor.

Bondi Beach
Spent the day with work friends at the beach because it was like the first hot day we'd had in ages. Sun, sand and sea = my fav. Deep blue cloudless skies, white sand and ocean made for some very fun wave jumping. Which I might add were very high that day. I got thrown under a few times when waves smashed in straight after another.

Din Tai Fung World Square
Y'all know this is like my favourite eatery. I took mum there when we went out shopping and we ordered the Spicy Hot and Sour soup, Shrimp & Pork Wonton Noodle soup, Fried Pork Wonton, and my fav, the soybean milk. DTF never disappoints.

Ribs & Burgers (Rhodes)
Ended up at Rhodes for a meeting one day and they had Ribs & Burgers there. I got the Pocket with chips and my god it was delicious. It's on the small side for a burger but the brioche bun and the cheese were just so good with the patty and salad. FYI there's a Ribs & Burgers at the Star in the city.

I also did lots of shopping throughout, buying books because. And I spent today with Jess shopping in the city. We both had a lot of self-control not buying books... but not so much where makeup and clothes were concerned. We both got quite the hauls.

I got lots of books and I read lots of books YAY. I've been on a bit of a graphic novel binge so yeh.

Book Haul

Books Read

I READ SO MANY BOOKS I'M SO PROUD OF MYSELF. Ok tbh the numbers are upped because of a novella and graphic novels haaaaa.

  • Castle Hill (On Dublin Street #3.5) by Samantha Young - this was cute, I got my Joss and Braden fix
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - this was fabulous and so amazingly thought so. Stellar world-building and totally spoke to the nerd in me.
  • Firstlife (Everlife #1) by Gena Showalter  - great concept but I had a lot of issues with this, namely the overpowering romance which I didn't like. Review to come.
  • Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken - great time travel book with great world building.
  • Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway- this is the best contemporary I've read in a LOOOONG time. Gosh it's so sweet and adorable and realistic. Very well written.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes- left me in a very emotional state but again very realistic and I loved how there was no right or wrong in the views of the characters.
  • Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery- this is my fav graphic novel so far. I love the dynamics between this team of female mercenaries. They're so funny and the story is awesome.
  • Wayward vol 1: String Theory- wasn't a fan of this one sadly. It was confusing and moved too quickly.
  • Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh- really great world-building, Nalini Singh always comes up with such great concepts. I got a bit confused with the PsyNet though and the romance was very overpowering. Got to remember this isn't UF but PNR.

Reading: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Listening To: The Sound by The 1975
Watching: The 100, Jessica Jones, Shadowhunters - Shadowhunters just for the laughs (I've been live tweeting as I watch). The 100 and Jessica Jones are AMAZING.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why I Love the Book Blogging Community

Let me start by saying I tried to think of a flashier title for this post. Something fancy and poetic and possibly derived from a famous philosophical quote. I came up with zilch so you get the very original 'Why I Love the Book Blogging Community'...

I don't usually do posts like these. Wait what do I mean usually? I mean never. And it's because I've never felt the need to (among other reasons). But as of late there has been a post and if you know the post then you know what I mean and if you don't then it's still A-OK. I agree with the post and the fact that each blogger has the right to express what they want. However, some drama has also arisen due to a difference of opinions. Guys let's not forget that we're all entitled to our own opinions and that is what makes me love you all - what makes everybody unique. It seems some negativity(?) has come about around the book blogging community - the way some people say/do things that others don't agree with...

Which is why I want to go back to the reasons why I love the book blogging community. There's #LoveAThon coming up in February to spread the blog positivity, so don't forget to sign up for that on either Alexa, Cee, Mel or Hazel's blogs. 

It's no secret that this blog has struggled. I've mentioned it a million and one times so won't bore you with the details. But if you read between the lines enough you might have noticed that underneath, I had notions of quitting. I don't though. I keep on hanging on because of reasons:

I was welcomed with open arms. When I first started using Twitter to discuss books and writing on my blog, everybody was SO welcoming. My friend Mariam introduced me to people and Saz tweeted about my blog and then all these amazing people started talking to me and following me (Alice, Shirley, Pavan, Claire, Hannah, Kim, Kerrie, Kat... and so many other Aussie bloggers). I don't want to stop talking to these beautiful people. When I met so many of them in real life at my first book event after only blogging for 3 months, everybody treated me like I was one of them.

Publishers are so inclusive. I started to hesitantly email and introduce myself to publishers after reviewing for 3 months and ALL. THE. AUSSIE. PUBLISHERS. ARE. SO. FREAKING. NICE. I still remember how daunting it was to send my first email to a publicist introducing myself and asking if I could be added to their database to know about new books. The replies I got were welcoming and I felt so grateful. To this day, I try to regularly email publicists to not only maintain that relationship, but yes while they're busy at work, sometimes a nice email that simply says "hi how are you" puts a smile on people's busy days - hey we're all human.

Interacting with publishers is so fun. Beyond the emails publishers hold chats (PTA Chat) and blogging events (PTA Live, BTCYA Bloggers Night just to name a few) which are open to all. I love getting to interact and joke around with the publicists on social media and in real life. It's a bit of heckling and a lot of fangirling and it gives me all the warm and fuzzies to see how PTA basically reply to all the tweets on a PTA Chat night.

Butting in to Twitter conversations like yeah. The amount of times I do this and have had people just include me in conversations warms my heart. It's such an open community and a lot of the time I lurk and lurk and sometimes I take the plunge and add my comment - people will reply and the spamming begins all over again yisss.

Getting to meet bloggers in real life. Every time there's a bookish event I get to meet more of the amazing people I fangirl with on Twitter. And it's just so good to see everybody and chat books and fangirl about stuff (EVAN WALKER AFTER THE 5TH WAVE MOVIE YEAH).

Friends beyond the blog. So many of these people I've met I now text and chat to on a weekly if not daily basis. We go to movies together (Joy), go out shopping (Jess), text when we feel like it or when we need someone to talk to (Kat and Mel) and it feels so great because you guys get me. You get me more than people I've known since high school get me.

Sharing is caring. And every time we meet up I love the book swaps that happen. We share the book love and just keep on giving.

The friendships have no borders. I've talked a lot about the Aussie YA book community but I've created friendships with so many like-minded people overseas. There's my fellow Sarah J Maas fans Alexa, Rachel, Judith and Katie. Alexa always takes the time to talk to people and she is such a caring person. I go fangirl crazy with Judith and Ellis who are in Europe. And I've bonded with Lisa and Siiri over Melina Marchetta and the Calloway Sisters series. Lyn is my resident KH fan and Hafsah, Cee and Josephine inspire me with their beautiful blogs and designs. 

I don't want to stop meeting such wonderful people. Along the way I've met so many other amazing bloggers and my fingers would fall off if I wrote everybody's name (YOU'RE ALL TOO WONDERFUL) but people like Jeann and Emily who always take the time to read posts and leave thoughtful comments, the people I talk to on Twitter yeh now I'm rambling... I want to keep forming these friendships.

The blogs themselves are beautiful. I love traversing and lurking on people's blogs. I get a bit envious seeing all the amazing post ideas and wonderful designs I admit. I admire the thought people put into their reviews and how their opinions are different/eye-opening. I like the way discussion posts are thought provoking and have people sharing ideas. I love seeing the features that people do that showcase their books and likes/dislikes and tell me more about the blogger. And I especially love the sweet comments that result from all this.

These are just some of the many reasons why I love the book blogging community. I'm not gonna lie and say we haven't been shaken up once in a while by drama but the overall community is so supportive and can come out stronger.

If you feel that you can't speak up as a new blogger or whatever, don't feel this way. Send me a tweet saying hi on Twitter - I swear I don't bite!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Counting One, Two... THREE

I am THREE! Well... this blog that is. But I mean wow I can't believe Fiction in Fiction in Fiction is entering its third year! It's sort of like the Little Engine That Could with the way it's been struggling along every year... and still managing to get by haha.

Each year I say I'll be more active and each year it becomes harder so I'm just going to keep on going as is and do what I can.

I want to thank you all for your support, for your comments (which it may seem I don't reply to but I swear I do read) which are always so lovely and sweet.

Thank you to the readers who give me purpose, the bloggers that make me want to be better, the authors for writing great books and the publishers for giving a gal a chance.

Special thanks to Sonia from Bloomsbury Sydney, Floss and Tina from Penguin Teen Australia, Ashleigh from Date a Book Hachette Australia, Between the Covers Harper Collins Australia (publicist Manda who has now left, sadness), Pan Macmillan Australia (publicist Alana), Miranda at Harlequin Teen Australia, Clare from Allen & Unwin for all the review copies, emails and being fabulous in general. I am so grateful for your support, you guys do an amazing job *hugs and kisses* I look forward to another year of working with you lovely ladies (and gentlemen?)

My Twitter fam/followers and the blogging community I am so grateful for the texts when I'm down, for the catch-ups/dates, for having you as a friend in general.
Kat for our meaningful chats and your kind words; Joy for being plain awesome and my movie buddy; Jess my personal enabler and dessert bestie; Mel what would I do without you; Ellis my fellow fangirl in everything; Gina my fellow SJM fangirl and Alexa, Judith and the Maas Thirteen; Siiri for everything Marchetta and Fizzle related; Lisa for making me weep with all her Marchetta edits; Emily for your hilarious posts and lovely comments; Jeann who gets me in all things gaming among other things.
There are so many more of you and I'm sorry if I've forgotten to mention you but if I listed all the awesome people I'd be here for years.

2015 was a great year and so many amazing things happened e.g. meeting Sarah J. Maas - you can read all about 2015 in my wrap-up here. Let's hope 2016 brings on many bookish events, meeting new bloggers and more blog posts!

To celebrate I'm giving away books (duh).

  • The giveaways are open internationally. 
  • Winners must be allowed to give me their postal address and reply within 48h of my contacting them. 
  • Books will be shipped from The Book Depository so please ensure they ship to your country.
  • Please only follow my social media because you WANT to. There's no point following for entries and then unfollowing as it really ruins the spirit of things.

Because I am now three (yay) and feeling generous (I got a full-time job last February after graduating woot) I am giving away THREE prizes. YAYAYAYAY.

Prize Pack 1: Penryn and the End of Days complete trilogy by Susan Ee

One of my favourite trilogies (because it's 3 get it?) finished in 2015 and I absolutely LOVED it so I want to share it with you.

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Prize Pack 2: Passenger by Alex Bracken + Passenger bookmark from Behind the Pages

It's one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC and I loved this book so much. I'll also be adding on a Passenger Thin Watercolour bookmark from my friend Gina's Etsy store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize Pack 3: First & Then by Emma Mills

PanMacmillan Australia sent me a review copy for this and I adored it so much I want you to read it. It was released in the US in 2015 but comes out in Australia in 2016 so I think it fits in as the perfect in between of 15-16 for this giveaway.

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review: First & Then by Emma Mills

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3


Date Read: December 23 - 25
Date Released: January 15 2016 (this edition)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them-first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love - with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself."


I was initially intrigued by First & Then by its gorgeous cover, and then by the pitch which likened it to Pride and Prejudice. While I couldn’t really draw parallels to Pride and Prejudice the way I could an adaption like Emma/Clueless, I could still see the Austen influences that Mills employed.

Told from Devon’s first person perspective (I’ll explain why I feel the need to mention this later), our main character is in her senior year at high school and just trudging along. She’s got one best friend and she wants to keep it that way. I’d say she’s sheltered because she chooses to be ignorant of everything that goes on around her. Devon lives in this bubble and ideally, she’d like to stay in it until graduation. Alas, she also needs to think of the next step which is college and has to find extracurriculars to add to her applications. From here, Devon’s bubble bursts. Add in the arrival of her seemingly awkward cousin Foster and things start getting interesting.

I loved Devon’s character growth throughout the book. As a lover of Austen, she comments on certain situations and how things would have panned out in the Edwardian era compared to what happens in today’s time. In her little bubble, Devon doesn’t notice the things that go on around her. As she slowly interacts with the various people in her freshman gym class, her world completely opens up. The reader is able to see how Devon unknowingly holds all these prejudices and everybody around her breaks stereotypes.

Foster especially is an amazing character. He’s extremely talented at football but also a bit geeky and at times socially unaware because of the way things have turned out for him in life. He’s gone through a lot and as more of his story unfolds, the more Devon is able to warm up to him. I loved the friendship that Foster formed with Devon and how he brings Ezra into the picture.

Now Ezra is our resident Mr. Darcy. He comes off as aloof, standoffish and everybody has the impression Ezra thinks he’s better than everybody else because he’s basically set for college football. Here again, as Ezra slowly reveals more of himself through his interactions with Foster and Devon, we see how people’s assumptions can lead to misinformation. Ezra is a very complex character, add on the way Devon was set on the way she viewed the world and it was kind of like the to-ing and fro-ing of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.

The secondary characters made for a wonderful cast to breakdown stereotypes. Devon’s somehow managed to get to senior year and view her high school as the clich├ęd American high school with cliques. And yet her best friend is a jock, her cousin is essentially a ‘jock’ and the other ‘jocks’ are really nice guys who are vying for valedictorian. She sees freshman girls as TBs (I forgot the term used in the book but you know what I mean by teenybopper) who cannot possibly have brains and must be bitchy. Devon is in for a shock of a surprise.

The romance is slowburn and sweet and very Pride and Prejudice in the way it develops. I loved it so much with the tension and repressed feelings. I liked that the romance developed not because Devon was attracted to him from the beginning, but because of the support Ezra provided Foster in times of need. Help that didn’t come with ulterior motives, but purely from the goodness of his heart. Devon be like wow he can’t possibly care about others can he?

Mills’ writing is really funny and snarky as we see through Devon’s voice. This is why I felt the need to mention First & Then is in first person. In a typical Austen, Jane writes in third person and provides authorial comment. Austen comments on the folly’s of her characters, essentially laughing at them and foreshadowing events/complications that needn’t have happened if not for their follies. We don’t get that in First & Then. Instead, Mills uses Devon’s own comments and opinions and juxtaposes these with the dialogues and interactions of those around her. While Devon continues on her own way, at times misunderstanding, the reader gets to ‘laugh’ at Devon and sort of infer what happens next. It’s brilliantly done and I was just shaking my head and hugging Devon in my mind.

Not just a pretty cover, First & Then is a lovely, sweet and adorable contemporary about how change can come at the most unwanted times, but for the best reasons.