Paranormal Double Shot

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See my review for Book One here

The Awakening of Sunshine Girl
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl Book Two
Written by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel
Paranormal, Supernatural
Published April 26th 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Sunshine's Luiseach powers have been fully awakened. For months now, Sunshine has felt spirits everywhere. She hears their voices, feels their emotions... It's intense and sometimes overwhelming. She tries to ignore them, but it's impossible. Hoping to get her powers under control (and hoping for answers to her never ending questions) she agrees to start training with her Luiseach mentor, leaving her family, and her friend Nolan, behind.

But Sunshine's mentor doesn't understand her attachment to the humans in her life, and she can't forgive his abandonment of her so many years ago. The only thing getting Sunshine through the terrifying and creepy training is her new, distractingly attractive, friend, another young Luiseach.

Though Sunshine's mentor is reluctant to answer her many questions, she finally learns the truth about her lineage, as well as the rift that threatens the future of Luiseach and the human race... And the crucial part she has to play in repairing it.
Only a few months ago, sixteen year old Sunshine and her adoptive mother moved to Ridgemont Washington where Sunshine discovered she is no ordinary teen. She's a Luiseach, guiding spirits onto another realm and the last of her kind. In what is now a sixteen year old war brewing between the segregated Luiseach, believing that while Sunshine lives, another of their kind will never be conceived and restless dark spirits will inherit the earth.

For the first time since learning of their fate, Sunshine and her protector Nolan will be separated and parting on regretful words. Missing Nolan while trying to come to terms with her training is taking it's toll. Battling demon possession and dark spirits plays only a small role in who Sunshine must become but local Lucia, also a fellow Luiseach, isn't making it easy. 

Kelly's Thoughts

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl series is a fun, entertaining series that's a breath of fresh air. In a market flooded with true to life contemporaries and heavy fantasy novels, paranormal young adult reads feel as though they are too few and far between and Sunshine Girl brilliantly bridges that gap. In the same vain as Anna Dressed in Blood, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl follows the story of Sunshine who is still coming to terms with being branded a Luiseach, a role in which she sees spirits of those who have passed and has the ability to guide them from our world. But unlike her fellow Luiseach, Sunshine's abilities to feel each spirit and their lives is not only what sets her apart. She is the last Luiseach to have been born, on the day of her birth women miscarried and have been unable to conceive in the past sixteen years, dividing the Luiseach community and igniting a war between the segregated factions.

We also see Sunshine taken away from her mother to be cared for and trained, leaving Nolan behind. I enjoyed the lack of romance, not that Nolan and Sunshine are officially together as she cannot touch him without experiencing excruciating pain. But the separation element allowed Sunshine to grow as a character and also establish why she was abandoned as a newborn child.

Where The Haunting of Sunshine Girl was all about establishing Sunshine as a character and learning about her abilities. Sunshine is a girl who is still unsure of herself, often lacking in confidence but while making her relatable despite her abilities. It also felt like a more mature installment in the series, which I really enjoyed. I missed Nolan's character, as he is absent from the main storyline but readers still see glimpses of their separation through Sunshine's dreamscape, a new development with her abilities.

The Final Verdict

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl series is captivating, entertaining and has invigorated the young adult paranormal genre. With the emphasis on Sunshine, her place in the world and not reliant on romance, it's a breath of fresh air. The Awakening of Sunshine Girl is often brutal and fierce, introducing a horror type suspense to the young and young at heart. Really enjoyed it.

May contain spoilers for book one. Check out my review here

Desolation Demon Road Book Two
Written by Derek Landy
Fantasy, Paranormal
Published April 8th 2016
512 Pages
Thanks to Harper Collins Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★☆
Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell, five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill, a small town with a big secret, a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming.
Amber and Milo are back on the Demon Road and headed for the small country town of Desolation Hill, a town known for hiding from the darkness that spills into our world. After the massacre in New York, The Shining Demon Astaroth has sent his Hounds after the unlikely duo, and the town offers sanctuary against those who seek to hide. But Desolation Hill isn't what it seems.

The town is perfect. Too perfect. The close knit community is friendly, the town is charming but only to those who reside there. To an outsider who is passing through on the Demon Road, the townsfolk are hostile and quick to escort tourists to the boundaries of town especially with the upcoming festival that is quickly approaching. But Amber and Milo aren't the only ones new in town.

A group of amateur investigators have reached Desolation Hill, chasing a local urban myth that sees children being chosen and taken against their will. Meanwhile, a town resident has discovered he has a doppelgänger when his neighbour is murdered and the crime concealed by the local police.

For one night each year, the town celebrates the protective barrier waning and the violence spreading throughout the streets. With no means of escape, Amber will need to fight her way to freedom but only now she has a group of friends willing to die for the cause.

Kelly's Thoughts

Desolation begins shortly after the massacre of New York, with Amber and Milo fleeing the clutches of Astaroth, the Shining Demon Amber's parents entered a pact to sacrifice their daughter. After killing his representative, the unlikely duo are back on the Demon Road, destination Desolation Hill in the hope of seeking refuge from Astaroth's Hounds.

Milo and Amber haven't had the best working relationship, seeing he was firstly employed to ensure her safety. Now the two have fallen into an awkward partnership under the guise of a being on a road trip with her Uncle. But along their journey, their relationship begins to change, the usually gruff and stoic Milo seeming more at ease with his teen companion. And Amber could really use a friend.

The town of Desolation Hill reminds me of Pleasantville, a facade of perfection but under the surface lies a sinister secret and Amber and Milo aren't the only tourists in town on the eve of the pending festival. It was a strange mix of lightheartedness and horror, and while the main storyline kept me intrigued, the new characters introduced were a little too many and left me unable to connect with the storyline. The introduction of Kelly and her group of van driving investigators of the strange and paranormal were akin to the Scooby Gang, dog included. In among the death and destruction, it was a bit too jovial and as a reader, it felt a little awkward and forced.

I can understand why Amber is lacking in self confidence, but the emphasis placed upon how plain and ordinary she is as a human and how extraordinarily beautiful she is in demon form still makes my eye twitch. The romance was welcomed in that regard as Amber's love interest could see her human beauty, but I had wished that she wouldn't have needed that potential romance to feel validated.

There's also a reappearance of a past character that seems to make little sense. Appearing with little fanfare and disappearing just as quickly in a blink and you'll miss it series of moments. I'm hoping readers will learn more about why he's hanging on, in an incredibly creepy form that's at odds with his original character.

The Final Verdict

I loved Demon Road, the humour, the adventure and the horror elements blended seamlessly to create a wonderfully entertaining storyline and although I did enjoy Desolation overall, it felt a little too busy with the introduction of too many new characters. I hope the third series installment will return to the magic that was Demon Road, with Amber's storyline at the forefront once again rather than trying to be a little too funny and falling flat.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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A Darker Shade of Magic
ADSOM: Book One
Written by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic
Published February 27th 2015 by Titan Books
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.
OH. MY. FUCKERY.
THIS BOOK WAS BRILLIANT. Okay folks, my bookish fam - people have been shoving this book at me for a year. A YEAR. I have snubbed them every single time. Why? I don't know. Maybe I had a premature stroke. Maybe I was being too picky. Maybe both. But the point is: worst mistake ever! I could have been enjoying this beauty last year but nah my dumb ass didn't think it was my ~thing~. It was so so my thing, I haven't fangirled this hard since.. since a long time. This review will be a shit-ton of shameless gushing so if you're not into that, then I'll save you some time by telling you that this book was my everything and don't be foolish like me! Read it ASAP - life is short.

Kynndra's Thoughts

ADSOM has astounding worldbuilding. This was what I adored most out of a plethora of other things. I'm pretty sure Victoria Schwab prides herself on being original - if she doesn't then she really should because wow. WOW. I was blown away by the uniqueness of the four London's (Red, White, Black and Grey). Each one had its own rules, its own people and its own magical standing allowing for differentiation betwixt four very similar yet different worlds that our character(s) traverse throughout the plot. Despite the fact we don't get to see anything from Black London, we're still provided a vivid image of what it's like. I definitely found White London the most intriguing.

  • The magical system and Antari were fascinating as hell. The powers that the magical beings conveyed was wicked! I greatly appreciated how Schwab made sure to draw her readers a picture so that we understood the logistics of how one controls magic/what their magic entails. Rich & dimensional characters. The characters. UGGGH. There were amazing! Especially Lila, whom I love dearly. She's a thief with no family who just wants to be a pirate (and even when she's swept up into Kell's world she never stops wanting to be a pirate!) Her snark and wit was the highlight of this story for me as she brought so much life to the pages. Kell is also a brilliant MC, who remains mysterious throughout the entire book - I'm hoping we get to see his layers peeled back in book two (no not his skin, even though I wouldn't be surprised as this book was violent af). I ship these two, I will probably wallow away if these guys are not a thing. My OTP to the moon and back.

  • “I'm not going to die," she said. "Not till I've seen it."
    "Seen what?"
    Her smile widened. "Everything.”

  • The Danes were true villains as they ruled White London (notorious for all things bad and dark). These two siblings gave me the creeps but in a good way? If a character is labeled as bad, I want them to be bad. Which they thankfully were.

  • Holland & Rhy were our secondary characters and while I really didn't care about Holland, I did care about Rhy who I imagine will play a bigger part in the next few books.

  • Fantastic writing & a captivating plot. I'm new to this authors work, but if I'm honest I haven't heard of anyone who doesn't like her writing. It's applauded everywhere I go, and by everyone I've spoken to and rightly so. It has everything and more, there is no doubt in my mind that if anyone was born to write it was Victoria Schwab. More importantly though, is the fact that she is a thourall plotter. I was hooked from page one, I needed to know where Kell and Lila's story would lead which kept me reading well into the night even when I was beat. I've added one more author to my short list of favorites.

    In Conclusion

    A Darker Shade of Magic was an adventure that left me wanting more. I did not ever expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, and I'm thankful to all those who recommended it to me (even if it took me twenty years to pick up a copy). I'll have to get a copy of AGOS as soon as possible. I'm even considering getting a quote tattoo (unsure of what yet, there's so many great lines but that's how much I loved it!). Buy it, check it out - just read this series guys!

    grunts. i'm so tired tbh.


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    Dystopian Duet - Long Dark Dusk and The New Order

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    May contain spoilers for book one. See my review here

    Long Dark Dusk The Australia Trilogy Book Two
    Written by James Smythe
    Science Fiction, Dystopian
    Published April 12th 2016
    400 Pages
    Thank you to Hachette Australia
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★★★
    The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before.

    As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive , but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost.

    But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again?
    The Australia has returned to a ravaged Earth, fenced in large cities and towering walls that protect citizens from the desolate landscape and relentless climate. It's here where Chan works the slums after escaping custody, trying to find Mae after promising to keep the little girl safe. What lies within it's walls is an oppressive community, where newborn children are silence through back alley surgery and drug dependability ensures it's lowly citizens are kept complacent by those seeking power and notoriety. This isn't the Australia. It's far worse.

    Selling stolen goods to local trader Alala and with the aid of underground exposé author Ziegler, Chan is determined to access the new arrivals database in order to find Mae. Chan plans on breaking into the heavily guarded Archives but not without consequence, Alala expects information in return for her services.

    Nothing could prepare Chan for what she's about to endure. Yet again she'll have to fight for her freedom, fight to find Mae and fight to become the person she once was, the tough, determined girl who fell from the sky.

    Kelly's Thoughts

    The Australian series is one of the most explosive, enthralling and confident young adult series that pushes the boundaries of what we expect from our dystopian based reads. Long Dark Dusk continues shortly after Chan has disembarked from the Australia, and Mae torn from her arms. Still aching with grief of all she's lost, Chan is determined to rescue the young girl from captivity. Her only ally is underground reporter Ziegler, who teaches Chan about her new world and provides assistance in exchange for her story. With the aid of local trader Alala, Chan is now indebted to the ruthless merchant as she plans to access the Achieves where it is believed she will find Mae's whereabouts.

    As on board the Australia, Chan will again need to fight against the oppression of her new world and her own sense of self. 

    With so few words, James Smythe is able to create an incredibly vivid world of brutality and oppression. From the addict lined streets of the outer slums, to the opulence of the wealthy citizens and stark, desolate landscape beyond the city walls. It's breathtaking. Where Way Down Dark was fiercely brutal and raw, Long Dark Dusk has a quiet and ruthless determination, intricate and devious as Chan needs to navigate this world with cunning.

    One of the qualities that sets the Australia series apart is how unpredictable it is. It doesn't rely on romance to further the storyline, nor does it follow the standard young adult format of instant love and overwhelming blocks of world building. Chan is a character who knows how to adapt. On board Australia it was fight or flight, but on the ground she's aware of how the new society works through observation of others. She knows she no longer needs to defend herself and although risking being captured, her life isn't being challenged by those determined to dominate. I love her. Fiercely.

    Final Verdict

    Buy it, read it, love it. A strong female character, intricate world building, a raw determination and written to perfection. The series is phenomenal.

    May contain spoilers for book one. Read my review here.

    The New Order The Young World Trilogy Book Two
    Written by Chris Weitz
    Survival, Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian
    Published April April 12th 2016
    384 Pages
    Thank you to Hachette Australia
    ★★★☆
    They thought they were the only ones left. They were wrong.

    After the unexpected revelation at the end of the first book, Donna and Jefferson are separated. Jefferson returns to NYC and tries to bring a cure to the Sickness back to the Washington Square tribe, while Donna finds herself in England, facing an unimaginable new world. Can the two reunite and prevent an even greater disaster than the Sickness?
    Their world was desolate, run by the gangs of New York City where only teens remain free from the sickness. After finding what may be a possible cure offshore, the group of survivors now find themselves on board a Navy vessel heading for what may be a fate worse than the streets of New York. Those on board want to question Donna, Jefferson, Brainbox and the American survivors are questioned and assessed while the group learn that the world has survived and thrived in their absence. 

    Confined and monitored, it soon becomes apparent that the authorities have no intent on rescuing those left behind to await their fate. Within the crew on board lies a group of covert mercenaries who are willing to return the group of recused teens to New York in the hope of administering the cure and unite against the cause. But when the group attempt to escape it's Donna and Jefferson who are separated, Donna left behind to ensure the survival of both their allies and rivals while sacrificing herself for the cause.

    While Jefferson unites the New York tribes, Donna is sent to a surviving Cambridge England, at Trinity college where she will be given a false identity and migrated back into society. Lies, manipulation and agendas will separate the young group of survivors in world that is merciless and unforgiving. 

    Kelly's Thoughts

    In a world reminiscent of a brutal colony run by gangs, it's always been kill or be killed. A plague wiping out adults and children, leaving the teen population to inherit a now broken New York. Segregation runs rife, gangs are challenged for their supplies, weapons and space. In The New Order, our young group of protagonists have been rescued from the island with a possible cure and now find themselves on board a Navy vessel, still unaware to the state of the rest of the world.

    As the storyline progresses, the readers learn more about the new world through multiple points of view. Luckily each point of view has a unique voice and spans across the globe, especially Donna and Jefferson. Jefferson is working with the Patriots who have an agenda of their own beyond saving the New York teen population, while Donna is sent to Cambridge and begins to migrate into college life. New friends, exploring her surroundings while having the occasional drink with her new friend in Rab. In The Young World, I found Donna's character likable but in the latest series installment she's incredibly annoying.
    "Who in the what, now?"
    "Say what?"
    "Within the what?"
    "Tutor? Am I, like, that dumb?"
    Well now that you mention in Donna, although she didn't start out that way.

    With her new Valley Girl persona, Donna's new surroundings seem to have little purpose to the actual storyline overall. Luckily those chapters are offset by Jefferson, who I enjoy much more as a character despite being incredibly straight laced and wise beyond his years. I would have loved to have heard more from Peter's character, who for me made The Young World much more enjoyable.

    The Final Verdict

    Overall, I did enjoy The New Order but the series may have benefited from being a duology as much of the content felt unnecessary. It was Jefferson's point of view that intrigued me most and the only progression within the storyline. I was thankful that the pop culture references were few and far between, but I still feel as though the storyline is clinical and a little too cliche. It needs more emotion to be able to invest in it's characters and their plight. Looking forward to the series finale, but still with some reservations.

    Ruined by Amy Tintera

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    Ruined
    Ruined: Book One
    Written by Amy Tintera
    Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic
    Published May 3rd 2016 by HarperTeen
    ARC received for review
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★
    A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

    Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

    But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

    In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

    Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

    Seeing as that is a very long synopsis and is self explanatory, I don't think that I'll have to add my own little tid bit so I think I'm just going to hop right into my review for this little beauty! There were some things that I REALLY enjoyed about Ruined, and some things that just tweaked me the wrong way so there's definitely a so-so feeling from me at the moment about this book.

    Kynndra's Thoughts

    The writing was good. I greatly enjoyed how easy it was to read Ruined. Amy Tintera has this way of making things simple - but kind of underdone. With fantasy sometimes authors can get way too complex, sometimes so complex that it detracts from the story. This was not the case. I could follow along quite easily, and the book flowed incredibly well which made for a quick read. There was no vast world or complex web of plots. It was very to the point, which amounted to weak worldbuilding, but has just enough to give readers a basic idea of the setting and history.

    That being said, there could have been way more than what we're given. Yes, for once I slightly enjoyed not being bombarded with the history of *this* kingdom, and *these* people but in the same breath, I'm a sucker for a heavily painted world. And with Ruined we're given the bare minimum to be quite honest: an evil King decides to slaughter the Ruined (those who posses magical abilities). The Ruined queen has two daughters: one with powers, one without. The Ruined must flee while the magicless Princess must thwart the evil King, and save her sister. The book really revolved around only two Kingdoms: Lera and Ruina even though we're not told much about either.

    "No one feared Emelina Flores, the useless daughter of the most powerful queen Ruina had ever known.
    But they would."

    Exciting plot, but little to no challenge for our main characters. Let's be honest, the plot sounds bad ass. A girl must go undercover, marry a prince, free her people and take down an evil royal family? Sign me the hell up, right? Or so I thought. I was intrigued, I basically read this book for the plot. But Em (our MC) barely struggles. She gets in a fight? She wins. She marries an unknown prince? She ends up falling for the nice prince. She wants to know top secrets? All she has to do is ask. Things are too convenient and given freely. I like to have heart palpitations while I read, especially when characters are in a hot zone - sadly there were no sweaty palms with this one.

    The characters were okay - but not great. Em was your typical badass. She can fight, she can scheme, she even has a magical sidekick named Aren. Cas was so nice, he had very little faults, basically a Gary Sue - unrememberable but had some witty humor (I have faith he'll get more interesting in book two for sure now than he can spread his wings). I don't have much to say about them which probably isn't a great thing. What I want to talk about is the King and Queen of Lera (the ones who have ordered the death of the Ruined people). These two are supposed to be baddies (I think?) but they were not scary at all. Laughable really. Empty, copy and pasted villains.

    >>>>> The sister, Olivia holds great promise though, she gave me a few chills. MAKE HER BAD.

    BLOOD AND CARNAGE One of my favorite things about Ruined, which made it standout was that Amy is not scared to get her characters hands dirty. Within the first few pages Em is already bathed in the blood of her enemies. There is torture and death and I just found it refreshing to see the gritty side of fantasy. I wish more authors would do this. It really brings to light this inner conflict of who's right and who's wrong. I can't wait for more of this in book two.

    In Conclusion

    The ending sold me on the fact that I will happily read the sequel. I do believe that this will be a story that gets better with the next books. It wasn't perfect and it definitely had some flaws but I really did enjoy it regardless. I'm hopping that Tintera will make things more of a challenge as that was my biggest issue with Ruined. But overall I'm strangely excited for book two. It wasn't astounding but at the end of the day it was a fun read.

    reading, possibly eating. maybe sleeping.


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    The Unexpected Everything

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    The Unexpected Everything
    Written by Morgan Matson
    Contemporary, Romance
    Published May 2016
    496 Pages
    Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★★★
    Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

    Future? A top tier medical school. Dad? Avoid him as much as possible, which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around. Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby, pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else? Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

    So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.

    Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer premed internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all, working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?
    Andie lives her life shielding away from the media spotlight. She's been watched, monitored and her life has been scripted with thanks to being the only child of a single father, who's also a congressman. Having lost her mother five years ago to ovarian cancer, now seventeen year old Andie is back in the spotlight as her father voluntarily steps down from office pending an investigation over misused funds, leaving Andie without her summer internship.

    Having been raised by advisors, Andie's father is now home for the summer and trying to reconnect with his teen daughter who desperately wants to escape. So after a chance meeting and an obscure advertisement, Andie now finds herself with summer job. Meet Andie Walker, dog walker. A girl who is about to have the summer of her life.

    Kelly's Thoughts

    The Unexpected Everything was an incredible story of firsts and finding your own feet. Andie seemingly has it all, a wonderful group of friends, living in a beautiful home, intelligent, beautiful but unpretentious. But five years ago, Andie lost both of her parents. Her mother to ovarian cancer, while her father campaigned for the community, a congressman who left nannies and advisors to raise his grieving teen daughter. Now he's home pending the corruption investigation and for Andie, it's too little too late. One of the loveliest aspects of The Unexpected Everything was the relationship between Andie and her father. Slowly and through perseverance, they begin to repair their tentative relationship and help one another through the grief they both share. It felt so lovingly written and realistic, leaving me reflecting on my own life and a father who refused to relate to his own daughters.

    Andie's circle of friends were hilarious. Each incredibly well developed with their own quirks and personalities. They are supportive on not only Andie, but also one another. So when Andie stumbles upon Clark, quite literally, there's no jealousy or backhanded compliments, just genuine support for their friend. It was so incredibly refreshing. Lately it seems that so many young adult novels enjoy creating toxic friendships between it's female characters, which I know during your teen years is realistic but also needs to be balanced by positive female friendships and The Unexpected Everything is a wonderful example.

    Clark although slightly older than Andie, was the epitome of a book boyfriend. He's not described as a vision of physical perfection, he's often painfully shy and although not having completed his education, is a young and acclaimed author who has landed in Andie's in the hope of braving his writers block. Oh how I loved Clark. He and his placid yet monstrous companion in Bertie seemed to be a calming influence in Andie's life, and for the first time Andie also believes in the possibility of falling in love.

    Morgan Matson has crafted an incredibly and light hearted contemporary that also touches on real issues, such as absent or working parents, the scrutiny that teens face and the friendships that bind one another. It was not only sex positive with Andie and Clark having discussed the physical aspects of their relationship, but menstruation. It's rare to find a young adult title that mentions it beyond a tampon spilling from a characters handbag, and even then it's painted as a horrifying experience. I adored the romance. Not only between Andie and Clark, but also Andie's best friend Palmer and her long term boyfriend Tom. I loved the group dynamics and friend Toby who was forced to spend the summer unable to text, but rather could only communicate through emoji images. I had no clue what she was saying, but it added a sense of fun throughout the storyline.

    The Final Verdict

    The Unexpected Everything is wonderfully written with humour and charm, making it one of the loveliest young adult contemporaries this year. You know that feeling when you sleep in on a rainy Sunday morning. Cookies where the chocolate chips are still warm. When you spend a cold winters day reading and drinking tea or one of those bone crushing bear bugs to let you know you've been missed?

    The Unexpected Everything is that feeling and I adored each and every moment. And the dogs. Don't forget the dogs.

    Contemporary Duos - Amy Zhang and Emery Lord

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    This book contains a trigger warning for rape

    This Is Where The World Ends
    Written by Amy Zhang
    Contemporary, Mystery
    Published March 21st 2016
    304 Pages
    Thank you to Harper Collins Australia
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★☆
    A heart wrenching novel about best friends on a collision course with the real world from Amy Zhang, the critically acclaimed Indies Introduce and Indie Next author of Falling into Place.

    Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That's how it's been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It's the perfect friendship, as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

    Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang masterfully reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie's disappearance in an astonishing second novel that will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver and Jay Asher.
    It's always been Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. Always.

    Living next door to one another since children, the two teens have always relied on one another for strength, support and in Janie's case, allowing introverted and sensible Micah to be her voice of reason. Micah is quiet, intelligent and reserved and the opposite of Janie who is loud, colourful and eccentric. Having been best friends for most of their young lives has always been beyond the school fence, a line drawn where the two teens move in different circles and neither acknowledging the other.

    Now Janie lives across town, lonely and seeking her next adventure, with her skin adored with Virginia Woolf quotes and pebble filled pockets. But when Micah wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of the previous night, he knows that Janie will have the answers.

    But where is she?

    Kelly's Thoughts

    This is Where The World Ends was lyrically beautiful, engaging and swept me off my feet with it's charm and sense of adventure. But ultimately it was a story told in halves, the before and after referencing Micah waking up in hospital with no recollection of how or why.

    Told in dual narratives, Micah and Janie couldn't be more different from one another. While he's quiet, meek and reflective, Janie is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, fun, quirky, often irresponsible and able to charm her way out of any situation. Janie decided that in middle school, their friendship wouldn't extend to behind the school gates, leaving Micah with one friend and Janie as the popular, beautiful girl her peers are enchanted with. Here lies my first issue. I didn't feel their friendship was ever genuine on Janie's behalf, existing only on her terms and seemingly where no one else would know. Although she relied heavily upon Micah, he was an afterthought and her character left me struggling to invest emotionally in their storyline as it progressed. I adored her character on the surface, but not what lied beneath her idiosyncrasies.

    Micah was ordinarily lovely. He genuinely cared so deeply for Janie and even against his better judgement, it was clear that she took advantage of him and the attention she so desperately craved. It wasn't until Janie moved away where she felt as though she was losing her hold on Micah. It's obvious that Micah was infatuated with her, his only friend in Dewey seeing the toxic hold Janie had on him and the underlying jealousy of his friendship with Dewey as well. 

    Beyond the storyline, the writing was so lyrical and lovely, almost dreamlike.

    Stars and stars, night after night, secrets spilled in a world too big for sleep.

    We fall asleep to fairy tales, and the world rotates and revolves and time passes and we grow up and understand that they are false.

    My heart aches for the beauty of Amy Zhang's style of writing, reminding me of Jandy Nelson. It's effortless and so easy to immerse yourself, even if I couldn't connect emotionally to Janie's character.

    The Final Verdict

    Despite it's issues, This Is Where The World Ends is an immersive and enjoyable read. Amy Zhang's style of writing is beyond lovely.



    When We Collided
    Written by Emery Lord
    Contemporary, Mental Illness
    Published April 7th 2016
    352 Pages
    Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★★
    Meet Vivi and Jonah. A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

    Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.
    Vivi and her mother have just moved into the tiny coastal town of Verona Cove where while her mother paints, Vivi is spending the summer sketching Japanese inspired couture and working part time at the local pottery boutique. It's there that she meets charismatic five year old Leah and her older brother Jonah and are both swept up by Vivi's infectious personality and sense of fun.

    Jonah's life could use a distraction. Since his father died, Jonah has been left to care for his family while his mother's depression leaves her unable to care for her children. The Daniels family mourn for the man who made their mother whole, having left behind a devastated home and the local family owned restaurant where Jonah plans to continue his fathers legacy.

    Vivi is eccentric and free spirited, bringing sunshine into what is a darkened home shadowed by grief. It isn't long before Vivi and Jonah form a tentative and whirlwind romance, providing solace for one another to escape the confines of their lives. But while Jonah is weighed down by grief, Vivi struggles each day to win the battle against her mental illness diagnosis without the help of her medication.

    Love cannot cure all, as both Vivi and Jonah are about to discover. But meeting the right person when you need them most, may just help the heartache and teach you to live again.

    Kelly's Thoughts

    When We Collided was charming and a brilliant read for those who enjoy their contemporaries with heart and depth. Following the dual storylines of both Vivi and Jonah, two teens who are both at a crossroads in their lives and on the verge of crisis. What initially immersed me into the storyline was Vivi. Her zest for life is infectious and a delight to read. But under the happy go lucky facade hides a girl who believes she has no need for her medication, but rather keeping a positive outlook in a new town where no one knows that she was once ill. It isn't long before Vivi is accepted into the Daniels family where she and Jonah begin to rely on one another for comfort and support. While Vivi hides the truth behind her illness, Jonah's family is struggling with their own grief.

    Since his father passed away suddenly, Jonah has taken on the role as caregiver to his three younger siblings while his older brother and sister both work and attend college. Working in his father's restaurant, Jonah wants to follow in his footsteps and become a chef. But the plans for his own future are put on hold while his mother is unable to care for the children, driven to the safety of her bedroom while her depression is left untreated.

    Although both Vivi and Jonah's mother were suffering from two different aspects of mental illness, it was written with care and emphasises how differently we cope with grief and depression. Although both share a connection, the romance wasn't love but rather a support and escape from their lives, an all consuming need for companionship.

    I was utterly smitten with the Daniels family and especially five year old Leah. The family dynamics were wonderfully written, but I had hoped that there had been more discussion between the adult children in regards to their mothers mental state. Being young, I assumed that it was because they couldn't recognise the symptoms in their mother or emotionally, not wanting to see there may have been a bigger issue than just grief they were dealing with.

    The Final Verdict

    When We Collided was so wonderfully written, endearing with likable and darling characters. Emery Lord is an incredible contemporary author, creating flawed yet realistic characters that are lovingly brought to life throughout the pages. Immersive and engaging that also touches on serious social issues, it was absolutely beautiful and one recommended for all contemporary young adult lovers.

    Paper Princess by Erin Watt

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    Paper Princess
    The Royals: Book One
    Written by Erin Watt
    Mature Young Adult, Romance, New Adult
    Published April 4th 2016 by Everafter Platinum
    Add to Goodreads
    ★★★★
    From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

    These Royals will ruin you…

    Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.

    Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

    Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

    He might be right.

    Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.

    Ella has lived a hard life. Ever since she was born she's been on the move alongside her mother who does her best to make the next buck. However, when Ella's mother dies from cancer she's all on her own. Doing her damndest to stay out of the foster system Ella forges her mother's signature in order to attend high school. To stay afloat Ella follows in her mothers footstep and takes up stripping in order to pay for rent and food. Until one day a mysterious man comes to find her, claiming to be her fathers best friend and her new guardian. Ella decides that it's in her best interest to go along with Callum.

    It's in her new home where Ella finds that Callum has five brutish sons. The Royal sons all have one thing in common: Hating Ella and doing their best to force her out of the family. The boys are cruel and have a hold over the students at their posh, rich kid school - they have no qualms about turning everyone against Ella and transforming her life into a living hell. Ella is determinded to do her two years and go to college - something she can only afford with the Royal's money. She does her best to convince herself she can do it, but a girl can only take so much.

    Kynndra's Thoughts

    Paper Princess was honestly like a pleasant little book holiday for me. Something new, and something exciting. I've never really been one to take a gander down the New Adult hallway. Paper Princess is marketed as Young Adult, but I think it's safe to say that it's for the older teens due to some of its sexy time content. There's nothing extreme, just the right amount to make a person blush. This book has to be one of the most addictive I've read in awhile. I put it down at 3 AM and was thinking about it until I fell asleep. It's one of those stories that's constantly on your mind when you're not reading.

    While this isn't a life-changer novel with some profound story, it was good fun. I wasn't sure if it was something I would enjoy but once I started I could not stop. I loved the voice of our main character, Ella Harper who is a junior in high school. Everything about her was so easy to relate to. Her voice was realistic and had an actual personality. Plus the girl knows how to hold her own - she's a survivor and won't take shit from anyone - even if she's intimidated by them. I have a girl crush on her tbh, she's just that amazing. Weakness just isn't in Ella's vocabulary.

    “You should know whatever game you're playing, you can't win. Not against all of us. If you leave now, you won't be hurt. If you stay, we'll break you so bad that you'll be crawling away."

    The attraction between Ella and Reed was so hot. There were sparks flying mixed in with all the angst and hate. It was both frustrating and phenomenal. There's one hell of a cliffhanger with these two.

    The five Royal brothers were also amazing. Let me rephrase that. The brothers are actually assholes, douchebags - especially in the beginning. If you're looking for a gentleman who treats a girl like she's a delicate flower you're not going to find that here. I was actually disgusted by the brothers at first, they were absolutely horrendous to Ella but that's part of the plot, don't give up on them with the first few impressions. While Reed is the MC brother of the book, I fell in love with Easton. Each one of them has something that grows on you. The aspect of family is huge. If you mess with one of them, you mess with all of them. Their bond is so magnetic.

    Erin Watt (a pseudonym for the duo of Elle Kennedy/Jen Frederick) was magnificent at crafting the plot. I was never bored, not even an inch. I was always engaged and ready for the next chapter. The writing was great, like a drug to my reader soul. I could never get enough and am going to go through some nasty withdrawals before the second comes out in July!

    In Conclusion

    Paper Princess does have some mature themes, but it's not the main focus. I can forsee this being one of my favorite series for sure. It has all the right elements: kickass girl, brooding boys, angsty plot and amazing writing. Join me in the trash can and read this book guys. I had my doubts but holy fuck was this a great read. It has actually forced me to pick up another book from one of the two authors because I'm not ready to get off this train. I'd sell my soul to the devil to know what happens next.

    Just give me book two please, it's all I want.


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    Michael Grant Talks

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    I'm an immense admirer of Michael Grant. Since picking up Gone a few years ago, I've since moved onto his two latest series and Michael's writing is without a doubt engaging, articulate and immersive and in particular his new release Front Lines. Front Lines is an alternate history of World War II, where women are recruited to fight on the war front. It follows the lives of three teen soldiers who are faced with blatant racism, bigotry and sexism by an America that itself brutally prejudiced. You can read more about Front Lines in my review by clicking here.

    I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Michael about Front Lines and his strong and fearless characters. The sexism they face within the male dominated environment and the prejudice faced as women of colour and race.

    Michael

    I have the feeling this is going to run long, and I apologize in advance, but the question interests me.

    First off, I am an American, so this is all in the context of American attitudes on race and gender. If you are playing a game of American Life Poker, two of the cards you want in that first deal are "White" and "Male." Both confer huge advantages. Now, because of the unique and frankly bizarre circumstances in which I got into writing, neither of those cards played a big part in my writing career, but obviously both play a part in my broader life.

    For much of my writing career, I was essentially invisible, writing with my wife and under her name. To this day I have written more books "as a woman" than I have as a man. And I’m in a line of work where everyone in authority (editors, basically) are women. I’ve written something like 150 books, and only 2 were edited by men. I’ve also, oddly given the racial disparities in publishing, had more books edited by a black woman than by white women. (Animorphs, Everworld and Remnants series were all edited by the great Tonya Martin.) So my experience is mine, not necessarily similar to that of most writers.

    For whatever reason, I have just never thought of female characters, or people of color (POC) as the "other," as somehow alien or hard to understand. I occasionally see writers agonizing over this and I don’t get it. A character is a character. Each has individual traits, a particular backstory, specific experiences. I think sometimes people don’t get the difference between individual and group. The collective experiences of every African-American or every woman don’t tell you much about a specific character because group characteristics are only marginally useful in understanding a specific individual. Characters are not somehow the perfect distillation of a group experience, they aren’t avatars or symbols, they are individuals with their own specific story. It would be malpractice to reduce characters to their pigmentation, their genitalia or even their cultural milieu.

    So I don’t write a female character as a "female," I write them as a human being with particular issues, some of which may well be related to their sex or gender. I write POC as humans with particular issues, some of which may be related to their race or culture. Kinda like I write white male characters. Or Asian characters. Or gay characters.

    As to FRONT LINES, I had to maneuver a bit. I wanted to be very straightforward about the sexism
    and racism of the era. (And well beyond the era, sadly.) But at the same time I wanted a school librarian in Bugtussle, Arkansas or wherever, to be able to shelve FRONT LINES without the wrath of dim parents coming down on them. So I carefully masked the "f-word" and the "n-word". The first because the various religious nuts might raise a stink, and the second because even writing that word once is difficult for any decent American, and can be so easily misconstrued. I generally hate masking, but "the n-word," as we tend to say, is so fraught, so larded with unspeakable violence and deep hatred that it has lost any worthwhile use except as illustration.

    But obviously I couldn’t write about a black character in a racially segregated army without including the slurs that would have been thrown at her. So I fell back on the word, "Nigra" which is what your more refined class of racist back in the 60’s when I lived in the Deep South used.

    Just as obviously, I couldn’t pretend that the US Army in 1943 would have loved the idea of women soldiers. The difference in how I portray the racism and the sexism is that racism had a long history as a debated topic, so that terminology had been created, sides were more clearly defined, lines were hardened. But the notion of woman fighting would never have been debated at that point, no lines would have been clearly defined, the vocabulary of hate that is so accessible on race would not have been as present.

    At least that’s my theory.

    It’s been interesting seeing reviewer after reviewer praise me for being unsparing in portraying the sexism and the racism, but with the greatest respect, they are wrong: I dialed it back a good 25% from what would likely have occurred. People today just don’t really get how casually vicious Americans were on race, especially. Americans today can’t imagine that members of The Greatest Generation very often had no reluctance to call a black man the n-word, right out in the open, and with no concern for retaliation or opprobrium.

    But that’s the way the world was, and although I dialed it back by 25%, I wasn’t going to lie or pretend things were different. I wanted FRONT LINES to work not just as entertainment (though I hope it is entertaining) or as alternate history, but also to be true to real history. So Rio is subjected to overt and unapologetic sexism, Rainy is subject to that plus anti-Semitism, and Frangie carries the weight of sexism and virulent racism.

    And in their spare time they kill Nazis.

    About Michael

    Michael Grant has spent much of his life on the move. Raised in a military family, he attended ten schools in five states, as well as three schools in France. Even as an adult he kept moving, and in fact he became a writer in part because it was one of the few jobs that wouldn’t tie him down. His fondest dream is to spend a year circumnavigating the globe and visiting every continent. Yes, even Antarctica. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Katherine Applegate, and their two children.

    Find Michael via


    Thank you to Michael Grant and Hardie Grant Egmont Australia
    Bestselling YA author Michael Grant is in Australia and New Zealand to promote Front Lines, the first book in his blockbuster new YA series, Soldier Girl.