Stray by Rachael Craw... KAPOW!

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Check out my review for book one Spark
Stray Spark Book Two
Contains spoilers for book one
Written by Rachael Craw
Science Fiction, Romance
Published September 1st 2015
425 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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RATING ★★★★★
It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA.

Evie is a Shield, designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die, not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option. Risk losing everything and everyone, including Jamie, and run.
Evie knows they're coming. The Affinity Project who monitor those with genetically engineered DNA are set to descend upon Evie, harvesting her memories to find her brother Aiden. After bleeding life back into her twin, Evie needs to prove he is no longer a threat to best friend Kitty but being detained in a secure facility means breaking her twin out. But freeing Aiden comes at a price, deceiving both Miriam and Jamie while Kitty is used as bait. 

The Affinity Project are the silent hunter and Evie now faces a life on the run. While her decision means Aiden's freedom, it also means that Evie's loved ones will face Affinity, tortured and held accountable for her actions. Evie will face the ultimate decision, to betray those who have kept her safe or abandon the brother she barely knows.

MY THOUGHTS

Stray was explosive! Superhero teens with strength, speed and skill beyond the realm of human DNA. They walk among us, belonging to a ruthless organisation simply known as The Infinity Project, abiding by their rules in order to survive. Evie is a Spark, an engineered protector who only recently learnt that her life has been a lie. Her mother isn't who she thought she was and now Evie has a twin brother, locked away after his attempt on Kitty's life, Evie's best friend who she was created to protect. But as Evie's blood helped breathe life back into Aidan, Evie also believes it has deactivated his urge to harm Kitty and knows the only way to keep him safe is to prove he is no longer a threat. Not an easy task while he is currently behind bars. 

True to her nature, Evie is selfless and to free Aidan, she must challenge everything she's been taught and betray both Miriam and Jamie, Kitty's brother and the boy who is destined to be with another. In Stray, Evie faces even greater challenges. She is now being tracked by The Affinity Project, so her controversial relationship with Jamie is on the verge of potentially destroying them both. Readers also learn more about Affinity, the secret organisation that treats those with the unique DNA sequence as mere objects, to manipulate, to control and to do their bidding. Evie is now faster, illegally trained and in order to help Aidan escape and his survival, is forced to take Affinity on... And win. 

RATING

Stray is by far more emotional than it's predecessor. I fell in love, then fell apart as the storyline completely unravelled before me. It was glorious and beautifully written. This series gathers strength with each installment, setting the scene for Evie and the spic showdown against those who believe they can control her. They're sorely mistaken. It's epic and demands to be read.

GUEST POSTING WITH RACHAEL CRAW
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Since Spark came out in July 2014 I have been deeply blessed by the support I’ve received from readers and bloggers. At first it feels quite overwhelming to hear anything from anybody. I spent a lot of time in that first month saying gormless things like, "wow, really? You like my book? That’s amazing…" Five years alone with an idea will do that to you. You have NO perspective. No ability to even tell, anymore, if what you’ve created will have value for anyone. So those initial positive reactions are all your Christmasses come at once. 

What I hadn’t anticipated was the tremendous loyalty of readers who loved Spark. They arrive. They stay. They put their feet up on the furniture. What I mean is, they care and they cheer (rhyming) and they make the job pretty damn awesome. It was heartening for me as I worked on Stray to know there were people out there who were waiting for it. Eager. Excited. People who would try and get sneaky insider information out of me (side eyes, Kelly). I promise, I never cracked … Though it was touch and go.

The YA blogging community deserve particular mention. Being a fangirl myself, there’s something that resonates with me about people who live with the kind of passion you find amongst YA bloggers. These people LOVE books. They love them hard. They love them with with gifs, with flailing, with CAPS! (Renee) This is a language I understand. The bloggers who have supported my work have given their time, their creativity, their sincere critique and real estate on their blog. They don’t get paid. They do it because they’re passionate. This strikes me as kind of freaking amazing. 

There is even a little group of Spark enthusiasts who count themselves as part of the #SparkArmy. Kate from Fictional Thoughts, threw the name into the Twitterverse one night and it’s become a rallying hashtag for all Spark Trilogy related news. Kelly and Eugenia from Genie In a Book created a goodreads group under the name. The #SparkArmy rallied for the Sydney Teen Con Book Boyfriend Battle and have since generously given their RTs and tweets to promoting the trilogy. This is basically the coolest thing ever. It’s the kind of support you can’t even imagine exists for a virtually unknown author like me … or the kind of thing you think only happens to JK Rowling or Cassandra Clare. Admittedly, it might only be a handful of people, but it’s a BIG deal for me. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

I love it when readers take the time to email me or write me letters or make art or create graphics/gifs/wallpapers/bookmarks. I love it when they contact me online and express their enthusiasm. I love it when they include my books in their photos, send me shelfies or photograph Stray in the timeout corner (Cassie). It gives me hope and courage and inspiration. It strengthens my weary bones on the long haul of rewrites and edits and late nights and sleepless nights and anxious nights. It humbles me and makes me truly grateful.

So, if my books have ever meant anything to you and you’ve ever let me know. Bless you.
ABOUT RACHAEL
Rachael Craw. Reader, dreamer, joker, singer, believer, writer and lover of words.

I grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, studied Classical Studies and Drama, became an English teacher and dabbled in acting. I even auditioned for Shortland Street. Spark is my debut YA sci-fi / crossover novel, the first in a trilogy being published by Walker Books Australia. Both Spark and Stray are available now at all good bookstores.

Rachael's Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads and subscribe to Rachael's Newsletter here
FOLLOW THE TOUR
September 1
Happy Indulgence | Diva Book Nerd
September 2
Behind the Pages | Cassie the Weird | YA Midnight Reads
September 3
Liz McShane Blog | Imaginary Misadventure
September 4
Fictional Thoughts | Genie in a Book
September 5
Kids Book Review | Books for a Delicate Eternity | Nicole Has Read
September 6 
 Loony Literate | Book Nerd Reviews
September 7
Striking Keys | Very Dark Horse
Thank you to Rachael and the always fabulous Claire at Walker Books Australia.

Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan

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Sunkissed The Ladybirds Book Three
Written by Jenny McLachlan
Contemporary, Coming of Age
Expected Publication August 13th 2015
302 Pages
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia via Netgalley
RATING ★★★★★
Following on from Flirty Dancing and Love Bomb, Jenny McLachlan's next book is perfect summer holiday reading for fans of Geek Girl and Louise Rennison.

Kat can’t believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?

In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realises she has nowhere to hide. It’s time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she’s been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she’s going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo! Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she’s got what it takes?

Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it’s easy to sparkle. Or maybe that’s what happens when you fall in love... Or maybe you only shine when you’re true to yourself.
Fifteen year old Kat is in trouble, again. A long story of a wardrobe and her sister's former boyfriend later, and she finds herself en route to spending the summer with her Aunt Frida in Stockholm while her parents are on their fifth honeymoon, leaving older sister Britta home alone. But little does Kat know that she isn't on her way to Stockholm...

Welcome to the island of Strala, where nothing ever happens. Leaving behind her impressive shoe collection, not to mention electricity, Kat has a choice of canoeing, snorkeling or dancing every Friday night away to the sounds of grumpy resident Otto and his one man dance party. Her only friend on the island is thirteen year old twin Nanna, an explosion of loud shirts and compliments that could be mistaken for insults... Until Leo turns up.

Leo is a regular on the island each year, staying over the summer break to compete in the island's annual triathlon tradition Tuff Troll. Over five magical days, their tentative friendship turns into something more. Until Leo breaks Kat's heart. 

Wanting to prove that she's more than a summer tourist, Kat begins to train for the triathlon to prove to her family, Leo and most importantly herself, that there is more to Kat than shoes. But to enter, you need a partner and with everyone on the island already in pairs, it's time to call in the big guns for help. The ladybirds.

MY THOUGHTS

Like previous books in the Ladybirds series, Sunkissed follows the story of Kat, one part of the group of once best friends and now fumbling through adolescence with each other for support. Kat is fashion conscious and can't live without best friends Bea and Betty, even resident mean girl Pearl. So when she's caught hidden in her wardrobe with her sister's former boyfriend, she knows she's pushed her parents too far. She's on her way to Sweden, spending the next few weeks of summer with her eccentric aunt Frida, but little does Kat realise that her aunt has other plans. Kat is staying in a ramshackle hut on the island of Strala, with no phone coverage, no electricity and no cute boy prospects. Then Leo arrives.

As a character, Leo wasn't the summer romance I had assumed he would be. He was lovely enough, but lacked a backbone as readers will discover. New friend Nanna more than made up for Leo's lack of likability, with her loud obnoxious shirts which are at odds with her personality. She's such a breath of fresh air.

Unlike previous series installments, Sunkissed isn't as comical, but more about the power of believing in yourself. There are still moments of laughter thanks to Nanna, but I felt Kat was much more serious than both Bea and Betty and it took me longer to warm to her personality. Regardless, it was wonderfully entertaining and I absolutely adore this series for it's fun and lighthearted take on four teens who are rekindling their childhood friendships.

THE VERDICT

A brilliant series for fans of fluffy, coming of age romances. Jenny McLachlan is the ultimate crafter of quirky characters, entertaining and feel good storylines that stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Demon Road by Derek Landy... On the Highway to HELL

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Demon Road Demon Road Book One
Written by Derek Landy
Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Published August 28th 2015
512 Pages
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia
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RATING ★★★★★
Full of Landy’s trademark wit, action and razor sharp dialogue, Demon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers. They’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in... Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…
Sixteen year old Amber doesn't have many friends, just her low paying and zero respect waitress position at the local diner and parents who couldn't care less about her well being. She's an average teen, trying to find her own identity and feel comfortable in her own skin. So when she's chased down by two disgruntled diner customers, Amber fights back.

Amber is the offspring of two demons, morphing into a red skinned, horned beauty who's parents have promised as a sacrifice. On the run, Amber is forced into the company of Milo, a gruff protector who for the right price will keep her safe. But Milo isn't without his own issues, namely his muscle car he shares an unnatural attachment to. And then there's Glen, Irish, spirited and a curse placed upon his life with only days to live. The three reluctant and irritable companions are travelling the Demon Road, where the seedy underbelly of America joins with the underworld.

In a deal with the devil, literally, Amber must hunt down a serial killer, a ghost of a man who children still tell fables about and bring him to justice. With Glen on the verge of dying, and loudly at that, her parents trying to kill her and realising the car you're travelling in could in fact, eat you at any moment... Amber's in for one hell of a ride.

MY THOUGHTS

Demon Road is without a doubt, one of the most entertaining releases in young adult this year. Following the storyline of sixteen year old, average teen Amber, her life previously lacking friends and relied on her online presence to socialise with her peers. Her parents barely acknowledge her existence, but rather are too consumed by their group of hipster friends who are not above mocking Amber purely for their own amusement. But their cruel intentions run much deeper than hurt feelings and along with Amber's parents, feel an entitlement to Amber's life. Sending Amber on the run to survive.

When your parents feel the need to sacrifice you to a demon, chances are that you may need to align yourself with allies who can aid your survival, and the gruff Milo is being paid handsomely for his services. Milo isn't a father figure, in fact he barely communicates without precise intentions, making for a very tedious road trip. He ensures that Amber will not only survive, but thrive as she hunts down the only opportunity she has to escape her parents and their sacrificial contract on her life. But what would an incredible storyline be without at least one bumbling and kindhearted idiot... Enter Glen.

Irish, persistently annoying and desperate to be part of Amber's journey. I adored him. We need the slapstick characters in young adult to break up a storyline and add an element of unpredictability throughout. Glen added a lighthearted, comedic tone which only enamored me more to Amber's plight. But fear not lovers of paranormal and urban fantasy, Glen isn't a love interest, I'm not sure he'd know what to do with the opposite sex when faced with the opportunity. He's likely to fall into a barrel of topless women and still emerge sucking his own thumb.

THE VERDICT

Fantastically written, snarky and utterly charming despite the psychotic demons. Who knew that Derek Landy was not only a brilliant author, but hilariously entertaining! I simply loved it and can't wait to see where he takes this fresh and phenomenal new series.

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

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Damage Done
Written by Amanda Panitch
Contemporary, Thriller
Published August 3rd 2015
304 Pages
Thank you to Random House Australia
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RATING ★★★★
22 minutes separate Julia Vann's before and after.

Before. Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After. She has a new identity, a new hometown, and a memory of those twenty two minutes that refuses to come into focus. At least, that's what she tells the police.

Now that she's Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school. And someone much more dangerous. She thought her brother's crimes were behind her. But now she's being forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean?

One thing is clear. The damage done can never be erased. It's only just beginning...
Lucy Black isn't who she says she is, she's not an only child nor is she the well adjusted teen she portrays. Lucy's name is Julia Vann, she's the twin sister of the boy who shot eleven students in the music room at her former school, having come home to her parents packing her belongings and moving to escape the scrutiny of the brutal and senseless killing spree. Ryan was always a troubled child with both he and Julia having an extraordinarily close relationship, bordering on unnatural and invoking the whispers of their peers. Ryan hurts animals, he wants nothing more to keep Julia safe and away from others who may occupy her time. Enlisting the professional services of Doctor Spence, a man who believed he could help Ryan and worked with the teen up until the day he decided to take multiple lives, sparing Julia's in the process as she watched those around her bleed out.

Now in her new life as Lucy Black, Julia is being followed by Ryan's former doctor and it seems he might hold the key to what lead Ryan to open fire on his fellow students that day. Does Julia remember more than she claims in the twenty two minutes in the time it took for Ryan to enter the classroom that day, and for Julia to be the only person to walk away from the massacre?

MY THOUGHTS

Damage Done is chilling. Twins Julia and Ryan share a bond and even as children, becoming each others shoulder to lean on and source of strength as they age. Their relationship seemingly goes beyond the realm of twin or sibling even, with even their peers questioning how healthy their bond truly is. So Julia begins pulling away, dating and sharing her life usually reserved for Ryan and Ryan only. But Ryan's issues begun long before their teens, as a child he was vengeful and violent, taking his frustration out on animals, eventually leading to putting other children in harms way. But not Julia. Never Julia. 
My brother was not kind to the people who'd wronged me.
Ryan maybe have been officially diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, but Julia's character was horrid. She was abrasive and likened popular boy and love interest Micheal to reminding her of her brother, leaving no doubt as to the closeness of their sibling relationship. Her past experience with the shootings led her to be incredibly paranoid and an unreliable narrator, with a storyline that are told in the present, while providing memories scattered throughout. It was deliciously intense in it's pacing and I enjoyed seeing the story handed to me in snippets to piece together.

The only major flaw I found was how predictable it seemed. The romance would have been more plausible had love interest Michael been acting on lust, rather than love. He seemed to form a connection with her based on appearance, and when he did question her, he allowed himself to be silenced with kisses. Julia is a liar and it's clear she uses her own brand of manipulation to lure others into her web. I'm fairly certain readers will predict the big reveal long before the final few chapters, but in no way does it detract from how sinister this storyline truly is.

THE VERDICT

Damage Done will appeal to lovers of psychological young adult thrillers, who enjoy the unreliable narration of a disturbed and toxic character. Am incredible debut that lures you into the storyline and despite it's predictability, will seize your attention until the final page.

Armada by Ernest Cline... Game Over

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Armada
Written by Ernest Cline
Science Fiction, Fantasy
Published July 16th 2015
384 Pages
Thank you to Cornerstone Digital and Netgalley
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RATING ★★
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science fiction books, movies, and video games he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the video game he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada, in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills, as well as those of millions of gamers across the world, are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… Familiar?
Zack Lightman can tell you just how addictive online multiplayer gaming is, after all, he spends each day trying to save the world. His game of choice is Armada, a massively multiplayer online game in which gamers pilot defense drones to battle alien invaders set to destroy our cities. Armada has over nine million players worldwide, Zack's obsession and persistence earning him a place at sixth on the rankings, not surprising given his late father's love of gaming and working part time at Starbase Ace. But the latest game update has Zack rattled, rather than defend the planet, gamers are in attack mode and with good reason, Zack's world is about to come crashing down.

Armada is part of the Earth Defense Alliance, a real organisation set to task with saving mankind from invasion. Recruiting the top players to fly drones and fight against the Europeans, the alien race declared war on our planet decades earlier, which Zack's late father knew all too well about. Suddenly the box in the attic his father left behind makes sense, the mixed tape, the old videos, books and theories about aliens and invasion. His father was preparing him for this invasion.

MY THOUGHTS

I begun reading Armada with the excitement and anticipation that I felt with Ready Player One. I'll admit that it really didn't bode well for the rest of my read.


Armada follows the story of Zack, who's only interest seems to be as a gamer and trudging his way through school. Along with friends Diehl and Cruz, each night their crusade is to save the world against an alien invasion sees Zack raising higher in the global ranks, sitting at a respectable sixth place from millions of players worldwide. But this isn't a game, it's Earth Defense Alliance training, an organisation who have been tracking the alien invaders for decades. The son of a gamer, Zack's late father was embroiled in the conspiracy that was the gaming industry just before his death, leaving behind notebooks of theories and pop culture references all pointing to the invasion. More than a decade before Armada was even released.

Similar to Ender's Game, but rather gamers of any age are recruited to fight against the enemy based on their skill level. Only the Armada back story and in game descriptions were too heavy and told in large blocks making it difficult for non gamers to immerse themselves within the storyline. It was clinical and the humour readers enjoyed throughout Ready Player One was missing, with one dimensional characters in it's place. I can imagine that Zack is unrelatable to anyone other than gamers, and his overall plight felt more like a scenario dreamed up by a male teen gamer, save the world, get the girl. It's as though Ernest Cline took every popular science fiction reference and scattered them all throughout the storyline, Carl Sagan, A Space Odyssey and from Space Invaders to Ender's Game. Where in Reader Player One is was infused as a journey for kids of the eighties, in Armada it felt forced and a little like blatant name dropping sadly.

I was mildly entertained, when I had really been expected to be dazzled by the Ernest Cline intellect and ability to immerse readers into his world. 

THE VERDICT

I was still able to enjoy Armada on some level, but really quite disappointed by the release that probably should have been titled Ready Player Ender. For fans of gaming and those who need to play the hero, but sadly not for me.

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

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Night Owls
Written by Jenn Bennett
Contemporary, Romance
Published August 13th 2015
272 Pages
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum sponsored scholarship contest, drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is, and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?
Wanting to become the next big name in cadaver illustration, Beatrix is a girl on a mission. But having no such luck at the local hospital in which her mother works, she's forced to take the Night Owl home, a bus that travels around San Francisco taking wary travellers home each night. It's there that she meets the enigmatic Jack. Cheeky and flirtatious, Jack is a mystery wrapped in an attractive package, a vegetarian Buddhist dressed as a jewel thief and the two teens strike up a conversation. 
This was the night bus, not a Journey song. Two strangers were not on a midnight train going nowhere. I was going home, and he was probably going to knock over a liquor store.
But Jack isn't the loving and free spirited teen he seems. Behind the facade lies a troubled young man, visiting the hospital several times per week with his family always weighing heavily on his mind.

Jack paints the town gold, literally. He's one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists, defacing public property while the city sleeps. Armed with only her illustration blog to communicate, Jack seems to find Beatrix wherever she goes, leaving golden messages of support and celebration. Driven together by chance and bonded by art, the two teens find themselves navigating towards one another in times of need.

MY THOUGHTS


Night Owls was absolutely phenomenal, adventurous, heartwarming and incredibly lovely. Previously called The Anatomical Shape of a Heart for the overseas market, it follows the story of Beatrix, determined, creative and incredibly quick witted. An artist fascinated with the human body, she wants to illustrate cadavers and it's there on her way home from an interview at the hospital where she meets Jack, exuding confidence and mystery. I can't remember the last time I had read a romance so utterly lovely, where two characters were more ideal for one another. I adored both Beatrix and Jack as individuals, and even more so together. Both artists, their natural chemistry shone through the pages as the two formed an attraction, leading eventually to gentle and tentative relationship.

Reminiscent of the Australian classic Graffiti Moon, Jack is a graffiti artist. His choice of art is created by a gold spray can at landmarks around San Francisco. But Jack isn't a hooligan, his art represents a side of his life that no one understands, a secret that threatens to tear his family apart. His reasoning was beautiful, it made my heart ache that a young man would go to those kind of lengths and hence, the swooning began.

It made my heart soar.

The storyline is utterly captivating. From the first few pages, I was completely immersed and emotionally attached to both Beatrix and Jack. This is a couple you can't help but cheer on as they flirt their way through the chemistry that sizzles among the pages. There is no excess drama, but both teens have their own issues that are slowly unraveled throughout the storyline. Wonderfully paced, I read long into the early hours of the morning and simply couldn't put it down. One of the best heartwarming, contemporary romances I've read in young adult to date.

THE VERDICT

Beautifully written, Night Owls is an engaging adventure romance beginning in the most unlikely of places. Jenn Bennett has crafted an immaculate storyline to warm your heart and steal your breath away. I adored it. Madly.

Burn by Paula Weston and the most awesome Interview ever!

Contains spoilers for previous books in The Rephaim series
Burn The Rephaim Book Four
Written by Paula Weston
Check out my review for Book One
Check out my reviews for Book Two and Three
Angels, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Published June 24th 2015
432 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★★★
Suddenly, Gaby remembers everything.

For a year she believe she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother.

Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe, one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon smiting badass and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa. Now she knows who faked her memories, and how, and why it’s all hurtling towards a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell.

More importantly, she remembers why she’s spent the last ten years wanting to seriously damage Rafa.
Gaby has spent the last week trying to remember the life she knew before arriving in the small seaside community of Pandanus Beach, a life where she was part of the Rephaim, half angels who are now preparing to go to war with demons who plan on destroying the town she now calls home. Gaby and twin brother Jude now remember their lives before the rift that drove the two apart ten years earlier, why Jude walked away and why Gaby feels an inexplicable attraction to Rafa.

But before Gaby can come to terms with her past, she and the Rephaim must prepare for a war against Zarael and his hellion army. Secrets will be revealed, alliances will be tested and Pandanus Beach will become a warzone. A fight for not only the Rephaim's survival, but for humanity.

MY THOUGHTS

The Rephaim series has been phenomenal. From it's characters to it's vivid locations, Paula Weston has created a stellar series that infuses angel lore with charismatic and relatable characters who are brilliantly flawed. But above all else, it's incredibly entertaining, the story gathering pace with each book and Burn definitely did not disappoint. Once again we're transported back to Pandanus Beach, the fictional Australian seaside town where the two segregated groups of Rephaim have joined forces to fight Zarael. But now both Gaby and Jude remember their lives as part of the Rephaim, what lead to the decade long separation and what ultimately brought them back together. I loved how the storyline sprinkled their new revelations throughout, keeping readers on their toes.

THE VERDICT

It's sassy, fierce and such a worthy finale to a series that is wonderfully written and one of the most engaging urban fantasy series' in young adult. Paula Weston has created a world that readers can immerse themselves in, characters to engage with and a series to celebrate the best that Australian young adult has to offer.

INTERVIEW WITH PAULA WESTON

The Rephaim series is a brilliantly imaginative take on angel lore, the Book of Enoch and the Nephilim. Is angelic mythology something you've always been interested in and how much research was involved in the process?
Thank you. To answer your questions, I studied a couple of units in world religion at uni quite a few years back (for ‘fun’), so I’ve always had an interest in theology generally, but not specifically angels. With the Rephaim series, the characters of Rafa and Gaby came first*, and then I started researching the best world in which to set their story. To be honest, I wasn’t looking specifically to use an angel-based mythology until I read the story of Semyaza in the Book of Enoch, a 2,000 year-old apocryphal text. It gave me a light bulb moment about where I could take that set-up, which led to the world of the Rephaim as you now know it.

I did a reasonable amount of research to see what other aspects of angel lore could work for my world building, including traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic concepts, medieval writings and the diverse New Age approaches that have nothing to do with traditional religion. I found it quite fascinating that a lot of our contemporary imaginings about angels and demons come from sources other than the bible. The beauty of writing fiction is that I could take bits and pieces of whatever I thought would work best for my characters and their story.

*The original idea for the series involved a girl and guy in a bar who have a complicated history that only he remembers, and he knows that if he takes advantage of the situation and she remembers their history, he’ll be in huge strife. I knew there were paranormal elements in how she lost her memories and that she and he had ended up on different sides of a conflict. I worked outwards from there to figure out their story and their world.
As a very character driven series, Gaby is one of the strongest, multi layered, yet self assured heroines in young adult. What was the inspiration behind her character and why do we need more feisty and confident characters like Gaby in young adult?
I’m pleased you see her that way. I can’t pinpoint the exact inspiration for Gaby: she pretty much jumped onto the page fully formed as soon as I started writing. I suspect it’s because this series is the first time I’ve written in first person, present tense and, intentionally or not, I ended up channeling my 19-year-old self. At that age I was probably better described as quick-tempered (read: angry), impulsive and easily frustrated. I’d like to think I’ve grown a lot over the intervening decades, so it was fun to dip back into that head space – but I should point out Gaby is NOT me, she just shares some of my traits at that age, good and bad.

I think it’s important in YA to show there are different ways to be a girl/young woman, and being feisty and confident is one of those ways. But it’s been important for me that Gaby also has a fair degree of self-doubt to deal with. I wanted her to be fallible and flawed, and to make wrong decisions with very real consequences. And then to take responsibility for her mistakes. It’s those moments that help us grow and that give us confidence in ourselves. I know my flaws and mistakes have always taught me much more about myself and life than my successes.
Gaby and Rafa's relationship is intense and the chemistry between the two in undeniable. Between the Rephaim characters, the romance is very sex positive. Were you mindful to portray sex as a positive experience for the intended teen audience?
In truth, I didn’t consciously write the series for a particular audience and have always written it by ‘feel’ rather than ‘forethought’ as far as tone is concerned. I shaped those particular scenes involving Gaby and Rafa based on what I wanted for them at that point in the story. Each scene offers a different dynamic between Gaby and Rafa and serves to show who they are at that moment, and what they want/need from each other.

It’s important for YA to cover the full gamut of sexual experiences, so I wouldn’t have had an issue with writing something less positive if I thought the story warranted it. You might remember in Haze that Gaby learns that Mya had a distressing experience with sex when she was much younger. And although I don’t explore that in depth, it’s hopefully clear that it’s left Mya with a less than healthy approach to sex and intimacy.

The whole sexual awareness / experience is slightly skewed in the Rephaim series because even though Gaby believes she’s a teenager, she’s really not and (in Shadows especially) I wanted her to deal with the confusion between how she feels emotionally and how her body reacts in those more heated moments.
One of many aspects that had me enchanted by the series, was the likability of it's characters and how relatable they are. As an adult writing young adult fiction, do you draw on your own experiences as a teen to create your characters and the issues they face?
Thank you. Another interesting question! I’d love to say that I’m so much more mature than I was as a teenager and it takes effort to reach back and find that head space, but the truth is that I can go there in a heartbeat. I suspect it’s like that for most people – we never really feel any older in our heads, just hopefully slightly wiser. I vividly remember my teenage years, the good and the bad, especially how it felt in those big moments.

Obviously some of the issues Gaby faces in the Rephaim series aren’t ones most teenagers have to worry about (having to fight demons, setting off a chain of events that could lead to a war between heaven and hell…). But there are plenty of moments where Gaby faces issues around friendships, family, parents, love and loyalty, and she has to deal with consequences of the choices she makes. Those are challenges that are often heightened when you’re a teenager, which is possibly why they are so easy to recall and tap into as an adult writer.
With the Rephaim being your first series and Shadows being your debut, how did you find the publishing experience and what key piece of advice would you give to young, budding authors?
I’ve had a totally positive experience thanks to Text Publishing. I’ve learned an enormous amount through the editing process and the team has been very inclusive on things like cover art, ‘puffs’ (quotes from other writers or reviewers on the front jacket), blurbs and catalogue copy etc.

I also need to give a shout-out to my agent Lyn Tranter, who scored the deal with Text in 2011. Lyn signed me back in 2008 on the basis of a fantasy series I was writing at the time. It took three years – and for me to start writing what would become Shadows after a particularly frustrating rejection – before the deal with Text was struck. Lyn’s advice and guidance has also made the journey easier.

My advice to young, budding authors: Keep reading, keep writing and when it comes time to submit to publishers and agents (if that’s the path you follow), always be polite, even in the face of rejection. The publishing industry is small – everyone knows each other, especially here in Australia – and your pride is not worth burning bridges over. You never know when the next opportunity is coming along and you want to be remembered for your professionalism and humility on the way up. I speak from experience: I was writing and trying to find a publisher for a long time before the Rephaim series changed my life. I have a big fat rejection folder of my own!
This year especially, there's a huge campaign for Australian young adult novels and bringing our phenomenal authors to the world. Besides your own, do you have any Australian young adult authors you would recommend?
Why yes, I do. Lists can make me a little nervous because it can feel crappy to be left out so I’ll say up front this is not an exhaustive list of Australia YA authors I love and recommend, just some of my faves, in no particular order.

Melina Marchetta Vikki Wakefield Kirsty Eagar
Markus Zusak Pip Harry Simmone Howell
Fiona Wood Cath Crowley Christine Bongers
Ellie Marney Randa Abdel-Fattah Marianne de Pierres
Jaclyn MoriartyMargo Lanagan Jessica Shirvington
Amie Kaufman Jay Kristoff Rebecca Lim
Ambelin Kwaymullina Leanne Hall

And a couple of exciting new voices on the scene:

Trinity DoyleJustin Woolley

There are plenty of other great Aussie YA writers I should’ve read by now – and will soon!
And finally, now that the Rephaim series is complete, are you working on anything new that you're able to share with us?
I’ve started on a totally new stand-alone book. I’ve had a kernel of an idea for a few years now, so it’s exciting to finally have the time (and head space) to explore the characters. It’s a thriller, and already has the same sort of pacing as the Rephaim series. Like the Rephaim series, the idea started with a guy and girl in a strange situation and I’ve been figuring out their story every since. There are no angels, but there is a speculative fiction twist, which I’m still working out how to best describe. I’m hoping to be able to talk about it in more detail later this year when I’ve got more of it written.
Thank you so much for joining me Paula. I've absolutely adored the series and looking forward to seeing what you're working on next.
Thanks so much for having me!
ABOUT PAULA
For my day job, I’m a self-employed writer-journalist-professional communicator, where my writing involves a lot less profanity I also love to read, blog, cook, eat, drink and travel and tend to get passionate about human rights, ethical food production… Actually, I can get passionate about pretty much anything.

I’m also a huge fan of Australian literature, fantasy / paranormal writing across books, TV and film, I love comedy. I’m a closet comic reader and TV addict and I’m borderline obsessed with the Foo Fighters.

Thank you to Paula and the always fabulous Stephanie at Text Publishing.
The Rephaim series is out now in Australia at all good bookstores.

Double Shot of Paula Weston - Haze and Shimmer

posted on
Check out my review for Shadows. Book one in The Rephaim series.
May contain spoilers for Shadows
Haze The Rephaim Book Two
Contains spoilers for book one
Written by Paula Weston
Angels, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Published May 22nd 2013
384 Pages
Purchased / Text Publishing
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
Gaby Winters' nightmares have stopped but she still can't remember her old life. Still can't quite believe she is one of the Rephaim, the wingless half angels who can shift from place to place, country to country, in the blink of an eye. That she was once the Rephaim's best fighter. That demons exist. That Rafa has stayed. But most of all, she can't quite believe that her twin brother, Jude, might be alive.

And Gaby can't explain the hesitancy that sidetracks the search for him, infuriates Rafa, and sends them, again, into the darkest danger.
Gaby still can't remember her life prior to reuniting with brother Jude. Having spent the last few days coming to terms with being part of the Rephaim. But now along with Rafa, the two believe that Jude may be still alive, a long shot that both plan on exploring. Gaby now realises that someone had given her memories of her time before the accident, her life being based on lies of her time together with Jude. But Gaby's hesitation to search for her brother doesn't go unnoticed, and Rafa can't help but believe something is holding her back. That something is a someone, twelve year old Dani who has the insight to see into the Rephaim, predicting that it may not only be Zarael and his hellions that are seeking to spill angel blood. A cult of southern women who see the wingless race as nothing more than abominations, have found a way to imprison them within a iron room.

As Gaby is navigating her feelings for Rafa while working with the Outcasts, Rafa's life is in danger when he and Taya are captured, injured and barely clinging to life. But will help be too late to arrive?

MY THOUGHTS

Haze picks up within moments of where Shadows ended, with Gaby clinging to the idea of Jude being alive. Her relationship with Rafa is complicated, the two dancing around unresolved feelings while Rafa shelters her from the secrets of her former life. The memories of Jude she had clung to are all a ruse, someone having implanted a life that was neither true or her own. She's torn between wanting to find her brother and hesitant that he isn't the same Jude her memories paint him as, even if he is alive. But that's the least of her worries when they discover an iron room that is able to trap the Rephaim, losing any advantage against Zarael's army they may have had. Where Shadows introduces the reader to the world of the Rephaim, Haze is explosive. The intensity between Gaby and Rafa, the anticipation of finding Jude, hoping to discover who implanted their memories and allowed both to grieve for the other, the simmering tensions between the Outcasts and Sanctuary and the mystery that surrounds Mya and what she is keeping from her fellow Outcasts.

The Rephaim series is not only engaging, but beautifully written with a touch of Australian thrown in. From the scent of the eucalyptus to the surf coast of Pandanus Beach, there is something mesmerising about an urban fantasy set in your own backyard. Even being supernatural beings, Paula Weston has created the Rephaim as relatable rather than images of perfection we tend to see in most angel themed young adult. Characters are scarred, both physically and emotionally and the lines between good and evil are blurred within their own society. It's also sex positive, which is seemingly rare within young adult. An agitated character has no qualms about swearing when angry, and Paula Weston should be applauded for infusing much needed realism into what is generally a very demure genre.

THE VERDICT

The Rephaim series is brilliant, swoon worthy, incredibly captivating and goes from strength to strength with each installment. Paula Weston has crafted the perfect urban fantasy slash paranormal romance series, and I'm completely and utterly smitten.


May contain spoilers for both Shadows and Haze
Shimmer The Rephaim Series Book Three
Written by Paula Weston
Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Published July 3rd 2014
393 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
Add to Goodreads 
RATING ★★★
Gaby thought her life couldn’t get more complicated.

She’s almost used to the idea that she's not the teenage backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim, a 139 year old half angel, whose memories have been stolen. She’s even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she’s mourned for a year, didn’t die at all.

But now Rafa, sexy, infuriating Rafa, is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.

It’s a race against time, and history. And it may already be too late.
It's been eleven days since Gaby's world was blown apart. She may have twin brother Jude back, but Rafa and Taya have been captured and are at the mercy of Zarael within the iron room, used as bait to capture the twins. Her only chance to save him is to enlist the aid of The Sanctuary and Nathanial, the fallen angel waiting for a sign in order for him to send his Rephaim into battle. Time is ticking away and every moment of indecision, is putting both Rafa and Taya's lives at the mercy of Zarael. Their only connection to the pair comes in the form of twelve year old seer Dani, her insight integral to infiltrating the farm. But with the Outcast and Sanctuary Rephaim all under the one roof once more, tensions are high while the combined forces wait for the Council to come to a decision. A wait that has Gaby highly strung and ready to fight.

But just as the war against Zarael is starting to gather momentum, the two Rephaim sides will come together to fight a common enemy and this time it's personal. The fight is being brought into the human world and Pandanus Beach is set to become a warzone.

MY THOUGHTS

Shimmer continues only moments where Haze ended, with Rafa and Taya being imprisoned and Gaby desperate to save them both. Where previous book in the series were fast paced and energetic, Shimmer seems to delve more into it's characters of both the Sanctuary, Outcasts and the hierarchy of Angelic lore. It's the first time the Outcasts have returned to the Sanctuary since the group walked out over ten years ago, leaving their fellow Rephaim and Gaby behind. We finally learn why Jude walked away from his sister and Gaby's history with Rafa, which will no doubt provide readers with much needed answers of why the two always seem to navigate towards one another.

But for all their ideals, the Sanctuary isn't the safe haven it claims to be with forces working against the group to drive a wedge between the factions. The twist is deliciously surprising and allows for the loose ends from previous installments to come together before what is forming to be battle between Heaven and Hell on Earth. I love how Shimmer explored character relationships and the difference between Gaby now and her former ego in Gabe, the abrasive and often reckless fighter. Gaby is barely holding it together, only now coming to terms with how she feels about Rafa while she may be on the verge of losing him. Her fragility was so lovely and really endeared me to her character even more so, especially when it's revealed why she chose not to follow Jude when he walked away.

Nathanial was painted as the villain, not wanting to commit to the fight to retrieve Rafa and Taya. His indecisiveness brought together the Sanctuary and Outcasts, all now fighting for a common goal. But the secrets within the walls of the Sanctuary were not only surprising, but added further intensity to a storyline already on the verge of detonating.

THE VERDICT

The Rephaim is by far the most engaging, enthralling and intense urban fantasy series in young adult today. Paula Weston is phenomenal and one of the authors setting the new standard in not only Australian young adult fiction, but young adult worldwide.
Coming up next... The final book in the series Burn and an interview with Paula herself.