The Yearbook Committee

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The Yearbook Committee
Written by Sarah Ayoub
Contemporary, Coming of Age
Published March 1st 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia
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★★★★
Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain. Ryan has it all... Or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?

The newcomer. Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends…

The loner. At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.

The popular girl. Well, the popular girl’s best friend… Cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?

The politician’s daughter. Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.

Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?
New girl Charlie can't wait for the school year to end to move back to Melbourne. She doesn't belong in Sydney and certainly doesn't belong at Holy Family High School. Her single mother fell in love with a wonderful man and to keep their newly blended family together, Charlie now finds herself stuck in Sydney until she leaves for university.

Hood wearing Matty seems like a recluse, spending his school day hidden from the world while trying to make ends meet. On a scholarship at the prestigious school, Matty struggles to find a balance between school and taking on the role of provider for his mother, a woman who is as lost as he feels himself.

Both Tammi and Ryan seemingly have it all. They're the beautiful people of Holy Family, their friendship circle known for their popularity and bullying of others. But Tammi's doting boyfriend David is tired of waiting for the young couple to take the next step in their relationship, pressuring her to have sex while Ryan is nursing a career ending injury and unable to play his beloved soccer again.

But it's the ambitious and dependable politicians daughter Gillian who will bring the motley group of teens together, as they are all sentenced to work on the Holy Family yearbook. While tentative friendships between the unlikely group begin to form, worlds will collide making their final year memorable, perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Kelly's Thoughts

Labeled as The Breakfast Club for the new generation, The Yearbook Committee was wonderfully written, engaging and most importantly, relevant.

The Rebel

The Newcomer. Charlie may seem as though she has a chip on her shoulder, but since moving to Sydney from Melbourne, she feels  as though she doesn't belong. Her mother is pining for a new baby, while Charlie can't wait to finish the year at Holy Family and return home. She's determined not to form any sense of companionship with her peers, her goal of making a clean break to university at the end of the year within her grasp. I loved Charlie's couldn't care less attitude, being a teen is confusing enough without having your life moved interstate during your final year of school. She's an intelligent girl who isn't afraid to stand up for others and what she believes in.

The Jock

The School Captain. Ryan had it all. Popularity, friends and the envy of his team mates until his accident that ends his promising soccer career. Without leading his team to victory, Ryan feels lost and in need of direction. Ryan seemed to wallow in his own pity, he was agonising over his injury long after his team mates had moved on and achieved success without him. His character begins as a narcissistic teen but through his interactions with his fellow yearbook committee members, he begins to see that he is more than a failed sportsman.

The Loner

Matty's storyline was by far the most touching and emotional. He is seen as a loner, hiding behind is hood and shutting off the world around him with his music. But at home Matty is the breadwinner. He works to keep food on the table and the bills at bay, while his mother's depression slowly eats away at her, unable to seek treatment for an illness she refuses to recongnise.

The popular girl

Tammi isn't popular, but popular by association. Her supposed best friend being bully Lauren, a girl with a mean streak that isn't above belittling others simply for her own amusement. Tammi's boyfriend is now captain of the soccer team, taking the title from Ryan after his accident. But it's the expectations he places upon Tammi to take the next step in their relationship, pressuring her to have sex even though she's been transparent with her own expectations of needing a commitment before she's ready. With her father as a strict officer of the law, Tammi is forced to moonlight as a children's clown at parties, wanting to feel the independence of making her own money without her parents discovering her extra curricular activities. 

I could tolerate Tammi, but was desperately wishing the meek and easily swayed girl would have spoken out against the blatant bullying. Her character was able to defy her parents, but not speak out against her peers. She was incredibly frustrating but yet an example of peer pressure that teens face to feel included and popular. Throughout most of our lives, we've all felt like a Tammi at one point or another, too intimidated to speak out against someone for the fear of being labelled as an outcast.

The good girl

On the surface, Gillian has her life together. She may not be popular or confident and is afraid to speak up against her bully, but she's an intelligent girl who understands the importance of her education. Gillian's father is a predominant politician, always under the spotlight and expects his family to be the model of perfection at all times. Gillian's mother isn't your average housewife, she herself is the vision of perfection and often comments on Gillian's weight, pressuring the teen and projecting her own dieting goals on her confidence lacking daughter. But Gillian is the only student on the committee of her own free will and will bring the group together to not only create a lasting memory of their final year but of the fleeting time they have with one another.

The Final Verdict

At the very core of The Yearbook Committee is a group of teens fumbling their way through their final year of school. They're humanly flawed and represent an understanding of the person behind the stereotype and labels we place upon one another. Even as an adult, we still relate to the same insecurities and pressure, making The Yearbook Committee an incredibly poignant and immersive read. 

Sarah Ayoub is an author who can reach teens through a shared love of words, making them feel as though they are more than the labels and stereotypes that are placed upon them, but should not define them. Be prepared to fall in love, fall apart and you'll adore each and every moment.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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Possible Spoilers Ahead. proceed with caution.

The Raven King
The Raven Cycle: Book Four
Written by Maggie Stiefvater
Urban Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult
Published April 26th 2016 by Scholastic Press
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★★.5
Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

Kynndra's Thoughts

This review is going to be spackled with the good, the bad, and the so-so aspects of The Raven King. I'm going to be as thorough as I possibly can, but I'm writing this only hours after finishing the book. I'm actually having issues feeling anything for what conspired from page one through to page four hundred and thirty-eight. This factor makes me sad, as I've been a fan of The Raven Cycle for three years - my Tumblr is even 80% dedicated to the bird boys, as my dear friend Kelly likes to call them. I like to start with the bad, as it is whats at the forefront of my mind at the moment.

There are multiple character arcs featured within that are completely useless. Now, this is just my own opinion, and mine alone. I know a few folks who would argue against such a statement. But seeing as this is my review, I'll tell it how I see it. The best way I can describe this factoid, is that there is tons of filler. Chapters that ultimately offered nothing to the story other than a few extra inches to the spine. These chapter made this book drag and drag some more for me. So much so that when I was done with TRK, I was not upset that I had finished one of my most beloved series - but rather relieved I didn't have to endure it any further. Which is not how one should feel after three years of being invested in a series, its characters and its magic.

The relationships were unequal. This was one of my biggest frustrations that I felt while reading TRK. Now, I have to be very tentative in explaining myself here, as there is a huge fan base surrounding this series and I'd much rather not get mauled. The two prevalent relationships are Blue + Gansey, and Ronan + Adam. Blusey was continually shoved down our throats, they were in love and felt like they couldn't live without one another. It was wide open and colorfully shown. Which is dandy, but I painfully desired Pynch to receive the same treatment. Yes this is a fan desire and judgement. I felt that Pynch should have been solidified, treated just as her straight characters were but instead I got the sense Maggie was being too cautious just because it was a M/M relationship.

>>>>> Now before my head is on a spike, yes Maggie gives us cute little nods that Pynch is a for sure thing. Yes, I know not all people move at the same pace. Yes, I loved LOVED the scenes with my two sons, but I expected more to be completely honest. The easiest and most immature way I can explain it is that I wanted them to be facebook official. Sue me. I felt cheated after my three year journey of shipping them. It just didn't sate me having to read in-between the lines.

The plot and events were anticlimactic + it had a rushed ending. We had a huge, huge amount of buildup which initially led nowhere. Yes, twisted and dark things happen but only momentarily. This being a grand finale, I discovered that I've essentially wasted my time on such a unfulfilling ending. An ending that was not only unexciting, but incredibly rushed. I felt blindsided when I got to the epilogue, it brought a whole new meaning to "that's all there is" for me.

Okay. So. You're telling me that I endured four books of searching, and wondering about Glendower only to discover that he's dead. He's nothing but fucking bones? There's no favor. No revelation. Nada. O-FUCKING-K. It just made me feel like I'd wasted all that time just for the plot to be so vague and cut short. AND THEN Gansey dies for literally maybe six pages, (an unemotional event imo) and POOF he's alive again. The world is right and they go off and do their own things but hey lets not mention anything about our gal pal Noah the friendly ghost. He truly became invisible. My dead ghost son deserved so much better. I'm glad everyone is alive and happy, but it felt too over the rainbow for me. Plus so many loose ends.

>>>>> That being said, the epilogue was touching. I enjoyed it enough. I loved that it was simple yet had a hopeful note to it. The only complaint is that there isn't the slightest mention of Noah (a character whom was prevalent since day one). Whatever, we can't all be winners.

Character growth was A+, good job Maggie. The saving grace of this book was the characters. It's why I fell in love with the series in the first place. Adam Parrish had the biggest evolution betwixt our cast. He also happens to be my favorite. Actually the entire way our cast of characters interacted was decent. The strongest and most vibrant however had to be the scenes featuring Adam and Ronan considering they did most of the dangerous things in this segment. But in general, I think the entire gang became entirely different and improved people considering where the were at back when they started they quest to find a Welsh king.

The Adam and Ronan scenes were amazing. The best. The highlight of this book for me. Without these two lads I probably would have DNF'd because it felt like they were the only ones involved in the story/plot. Blue, Gansey and Henry were too busy at toga parties.. Or something. *shrugs* I guess you could say I distanced myself from this series.

The writing was of course vivid and brought to life a vivacious world inside the readers head. I haven't met very many people who don't praise Stiefvater's writing to the moon and back. Gods, she knows how to write that's for sure. Especially when it comes to describing settings and creatures. I loved Opal, ugh she was a delight and I wanted more of her + her two dads, Adam and Ronan xP Though it does come off a bit stiff and overdone at times. I can't write a review without muttering some form of appraisal for how well she weaves the alphabet into wicked sentences.

In conclusion

As a fan of this series I am disappointed. I think it could have been far better - or at least I imagined it would be. I finished and felt very little for what I'd just read. It's not a series I would ever desire re-reading unfortunately. I do hope that other fans were far more fulfilled than I. Nonetheless, my heart still loves Adam and Ronan. They are what kept the story and the magic alive for me. But alas, the story is over and I for one am happy to be done with The Raven Cycle series. It's been a decent three years, friends. I hope Noah found peace *grumbles and walks away*.

sigh


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Guest Posting with Morgan Matson

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The Unexpected Everything
Written by Morgan Matson
Contemporary, Romance
Expected Publication May 1st 2016
496 Pages
Add to Goodreads
Visit Simon & Schuster Australia
Purchase from Booktopia
From Morgan Matson, the bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone comes a feel good story of friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.

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?
To celebrate the May first release of Morgan Matson's The Unexpected Everything in Australia, Please welcome Morgan to Diva Booknerd with her first guest post on tips for budding authors.

So... You want to be a writer - Tips from Morgan Matson

First of all, yay! Congratulations. You have chosen a job that you can do in your pajamas, which I think many more jobs should offer you the option of doing. Who doesn’t work better when they’re comfy?

My own path to being a writer was winding and circuitous and not something that I would necessarily recommend that people follow. But along the way I have learned some things, and I’m happy to share them with you now. Here are my top five writing tips.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

This is one of the biggest ones. I meet lots of readers on tour who want to write, but they’re discouraged because they don’t think their writing stacks up to the books they read. But the thing is – the books you get from the bookstore are not first drafts. Far, far from it. My editor and I typically do four drafts on every book. My first drafts are messy and scattered with way too many characters and subplots. Some of my friends’ first drafts are really short and spare and then they fill them in later. But they’re not the finished product. And then after you finish revising, there are copyeditors and proofreaders…whole teams of people whose whole job it is to make your book better. So don’t compare your own writing to the books you read. We have a lot of help.

Read a lot.

This is my biggest tip of all! Reading is how you learn how writing works. I wouldn’t have been able to be a writer if I hadn’t been a huge reader.

Practice makes perfect.

Writing isn’t a magical ability some people have, where everything they write down is flawless (well maybe some people, but none I’ve met). It’s a skill! And like any skill – like drawing or riding a bike or cooking – you get better at it the more you do it. If you read your favorite author’s first book and then their fifth, chances are you’ll see a big difference. It’s something that you get better at with time, over time.

Pay attention to what you pay attention to

What do you love? What do you have to read the day it comes out? What makes you giddy and excited and go into full on fan mode? That’s most probably what you’re going to want to be writing. I spent a lot of time in college trying to write super-serious "literary" short stories... When I was going home at night and devouring Harry Potter and the Traveling Pants books. Don’t feel like you should write a certain genre or kind of book. Write what makes you happy.

Have fun with it

Don’t worry about how to get published, get an agent, anything like that. Just have fun with it. Write the best stories you can – all the rest of it will come later. Good luck and happy writing!

About Morgan

Morgan Matson received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. She was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.


Thank you to Morgan and Simon & Schuster Australia

Giveaway


The War That Saved My Life

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The War That Saved My Life
Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Expected Publication May 16th 2016
336 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Nine year old Ada has never left her one room flat. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute, she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Miss Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take in the two children. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan, and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
In the bustling streets of London, life goes on for nine year old Ada as she stares out of her apartment window, watching her Mam and five year old brother James. Ada sits behind her glass fortress, unable to leave for the fear of ridicule, her mother forbidding the young girl to be seen. Ada's mother is ashamed of her only daughter, stuck with a crippled child suffering from club foot. While James roams the neighbourhood, Ada is subjected to regular beatings, deliberately keep without food and in a cramped cupboard space to ensure her compliance. But beyond the British borders, a war is raging on their doorsteps. German soldiers are infiltrating European countries with the promise to leave England in ruins.

Schools have closed in anticipation and the call for children to be sent to the United Kingdom countryside has begun. James refuses to leave without Ada, their mother refusing to allow Ada the luxury of escaping the conflict which is expected to kill millions across Britain. Armed with her mother's shoes and a rationed snack, Ada and James escape for the train to Leeds, with the hope of sanctuary for all children.

With their matted hair and threadbare clothes, the children are forced upon local spinster Susan Smith. Susan doesn't want to care for the children and Ada in turn won't allow herself to trust Susan, who is only a temporary home until their mother sends for their return... If she sends for their return.

Kelly's Thoughts

Absolutely breathtaking.

The War That Saved My Life was phenomenal. An incredibly emotional and poignant read about one girl and the life she believes she deserves. Her mothers emotional and physical abuse due to her malformation from birth, nine year old Ada survives on dinner scraps and caring for younger brother James. She crawls around her one room apartment, not daring to attempt to stand for the fear of another beating at the hands of her mother, keeping the young girl compliant by threatening to harm James. Through her mothers constant verbal abuse, Ada would never dare to hope for more. A life where she can feel the sun on her face beyond the glass window where she sits, and watches the bustling life in London pass her by.

My heart ached for Ada. A girl so young, yet has never truly known what it is to have been loved or felt cared for. Her mother was not only neglectful but horrifically abusive, often sending Ada to spend hours tucked away inside a small cupboard for simply existing. So when the opportunity arises for children to escape the city in the hope that they will never see the conflict of a Nazi Germany invasion, Ada begins to covertly teach herself to stand then walk, the two siblings running towards freedom.
At last I understood what I was fighting, and why. And Man had no idea how strong a fighter I'd become.
Susan lives alone, until two malnourished children and forced into her care in the small Leeds coastal town. Susan hasn't any idea how to raise two children, especially since her best friend had passed away leaving Susan barely taking car of herself. Although she never leaves the children wanting for anything, it's Ada who sees Susan as just another person who doesn't want her. But as the weeks pass and both Ada and James return to health, the siblings thrive under Susan's care and Ada begins to hope for more. 

A remarkable young lady who's story left me breathless and stole my heart.

The Final Verdict

It was nothing short of exquisite. Ada's story although poignant, was filled with such a strength and determination, driven by the need to prove to her mother than she wasn't a disappointment and deserved to be loved. Just as Susan grew to love her. My goodness how I loved this book fiercely. This is a middle grade read that will appeal to a much wider audience and those who appreciate beautifully written fiction that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

This book is truly remarkable.

Wink Poppy Midnight - More Rant than Review

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Wink Poppy Midnight
Contemporary Standalone
Written by April Genevieve Tucholke
Magical Realism, Mystery, Young Adult
Published March 22nd 2016 by Dial Books
Add to Goodreads
Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened? Someone knows. Someone is lying.
WARNING: HARSH OPINION TIME (#donewiththisbook)

Kynndra's BITTER Thoughts

Normally this is where I would write my own little summary of what went down in the book. But if I'm 100% honest.. nothing - just about nothing that equates to an actual story does happen in Wink Poppy Midnight. I was going to be generous and give this book two stars, but then I recall giving other books (which had more of a story) far less than two stars and that just didn't seem fair. I really should be giving this book no stars as I didn't seen any substance worth rating, but hell one star it is.

I feel nothing but frustration towards this book. You'll have to understand that I was aching to read this novel. What with the eyegasmic cover to the alluring synopsis - how could you not? But I fell straight on my ass and into shitville with this one. I detested this book because I hate feeling like I've wasted hours of my life on something useless, hours that I'll never get back. That's the gamble with every book, I suppose. Boy did I lose out on this one. Yes, this book is fairly short but still. I've never felt so empty finishing a book than I did when I finished WPM.

Why did I give it one star then, you ask? Well because the writing is fucking beautiful. If writing could leave colors I'd be purple from head to toe. April is one hell of a wordsmith. She makes every line poetic and stunning. There's no doubt about that. I love nice writing as much as the next guy, but if there's no story to back it up then I don't care if the words are written in gold. I read for the story and if there's no story, I find no enjoyment in what I'm reading. I'm going to share my brutal opinion right now - not even her writing could make this a good book

Quite literally, I think it was page 210/247 on my ereader that there was actually a plot taking place. Other than that it was Wink telling fairy tales, Midnight fawning over Wink or thinking about his mom and brother for the fiftieth time, followed by Poppy being a vindictive bitch and essentially manipulating any male with her hauntingly good looks. I did not like any of the characters. The biggest kudo I have to give to this book is that it's easy to make aesthetic edits for it because the author writes so beautifully you can't help but imagine the mystic and southern gothic-like setting.

Literally the plot of the book: FAIRY TALES AND SHIT. POPPY BEING A STAGE 5 STALKER. Red hair and the smell of jasmine, -210 pages of pointless bullshit- *gasp* Where did Poppy go? *looks for Poppy for 5 pages* OH NO! IS SHE DEAD? *cue dramatic music + weird fake possession* Wink knew where Poppy was the whole time *gasp x3* (she was camping by a river living that #hillbilly life). One of the many boys Poppy stalks suddenly wants her. Wink and Midnight makeout. Yes it's as stupid as it sounds. The end.

In Conclusion

I'm not saying don't read this book, but I'm definitely not recommending it. We all perceive books differently. I think Wink Poppy Midnight was supposed to provide me with a message of "we're all the villain and hero sometimes" but wow. What a waste of my time. Sorry for being a bit of an asshole, I just couldn't sugar coat my salty feels about this one, folks. I got 96% pretty words, 2% useless characters and 2% plot which equated to a 100% terrible read.

Gunna waddle my bitter ass off the internet for awhile.


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Lady Midnight Discussion

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Lady Midnight
The Dark Artifices: Book One
Written by Cassandra Clare
Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Published March 8th 2016
720 pages
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark, who was captured by the faeries five years ago, has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind, and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?
Together I and Kelly tackled the beast of a book that is Lady Midnight (no seriously, the paperback could probably be used as a doorstop) so I figured why not do a buddy review? Needless to say, I was never the hugest fan of Cassandra Clare. I read The Mortal Instruments way back in grade seven (like six years ago, give or take). It was when The Mortal Instruments was supposed to end with City of Glass. I'd forgotten about it until 2011 and to my shock I saw a fourth book on the shelves. I never ventured down that road. I read The Clockwork Angel and didn't go beyond book one.

So when I heard about Lady Midnight, I had my doubts I would EVER read this. I think it was initially boredom that coaxed me to get it and peek into the depths of a new Shadowhunter series.

Kelly, I know you had your own doubts. What initially made you want to read Lady Midnight?

Kelly

I think it was mostly curiosity. I'd read five of The Mortal Instruments releases and couldn't finish book six due to so much filler. I'd read book one of The Infernal Devices and also tried reading The Magnus Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, but after the first three books in The Mortal Instruments, I lost interest and each book seemed to blur into the next. The same characters or versions thereof, it was the same storyline over and over and to be honest, when Lady Midnight was announced I groaned and thought, here we go again.

But I'm eating my words now. It was fucking incredible! Yes, it's still set in the world of Shadowhunters, but it had a completely different feel. Even not having fully finished any of her previous series, I had no problems fully immersing myself back into the Shadowhunting world.

Having not completed her previous series, did you have issues picking up the storyline?

Kynndra

Ha! You're not the only one. I too was one of those people who scoffed when I saw another Shadowhunter series coming out. I didn't think it showed promise, and quite honestly I thought it was going to be shit. I was so so wrong though. Despite claims that you MUST read all the Shadowhunter books before picking up Lady Midnight, I don't find that to be true. I've only read four books out all of the books Cassie's written, and I understood and followed along just fine.

To be fair I'm sure it would have been fun to get all the little nods towards the other series but no, I would say you'd only need a basic understanding of the past books in order to read Lady Midnight. If you don't want to read TMI, TID or SA beforehand just look up the basics so you understand the occasional appearance of characters from other series. 

Kelly, what do you think was so different about Lady Midnight as compared to its sister series?

Kelly

It honestly felt as though as it was written by an entirely different author. I feel Cassie Clare's books are aimed at a specific audience, young teens or readers who don't mind the usual young adult tropes. Either I was enjoying it too much to notice, but I found none of those aspects that Clare is usually known for. I was surprised by the warm, likable but most importantly, flawed characters. They weren't the usual ridiculously good looking beings that everyone wants to bed. In fact, I didn't feel the character aesthetics played any major role in their description either. 

How did you feel about the Blackthorn clan, Emma and Christina?

Kynndra

Oh man, I loved them all. The characters were what made the story for me. Specifically the Blackthorn clan. I adored Emma and Christina though, they had this amazing chemistry and a much needed girl power bond going on. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters we were dealing with as I do not do well with a huge cast. But I quickly found that Cassie had this way of making each person distinct so that they stood out. Without a doubt I'd have to say that Mark and Ty were my favorite out of the Blackthorn batch. Mark was the most hilarious character I have probably ever read, the scenes with him and his faerie folk speech made me ridiculously happy. I'm also so excited to see what goes on with Ty, I think he's going to a have a huge prevalence in the upcoming books. 

Who out of all the characters was you favorite?

Kelly

I loved Mark and couldn't agree more. His character had a lovable and naive charm, as though he'd lost all semblance of what era he was in. But for all the lighthearted moments he provided, I thought he was a well thought out and multilayered character who also introduced diversity into the storyline too, which pleasantly surprised me. Julian was absolutely lovely. Having taken on the role as a father figure to his younger siblings after his brother and sister were taken and banished. He carries around so much and it's made clear early on that he has feelings for Emma.

What did you think of the romances?

Kynndra

Honestly, at first I felt really uncomfortable with Julian. I didn't know what to think of him at first because of how he was acting. At first I thought he was a bit... Odd. But then we delved further into the book and I discovered that Julian and Emma have such an amazing chemistry. They've been friends for quite awhile - not to mention parabatai so I was intrigued to see how their relationship would go from that to lovers. Plus the fact that it's a forbidden romance really added a nice flare to it.
I think my favorite bit about the romance is that it's not all cut and dry. I can't begin to predict how this will turn out by the end of this series (I love having that unpredictableness. I am a complete Blackstairs shipper - is that the ship name?) Idk. I love them, I love their scenes and I cannot wait to experience the angst in the upcoming books. 

Do you see Julian and Emma being endgame, or do you think that their relationship was doomed from the start?

Kelly

I don't know actually. Knowing Cassandra Clare, she'll have the young couple fight to change the accords so they can be together but seeing that this feels so different from all her previous Shadowhunter books, I'm excited to find out whether she'll take the plunge and shake it up. I can hear fangirls shrieking as we speak.

What did you think of the writing?

Kynndra

I found the writing to be far different than my previous Cassandra Clare experiences. It almost didn't feel like her. I'm not a huge fan of Cassandra Clare or her previous books as I've mentioned and that was in part due to her writing. But Lady Midnight was above and beyond what I expected. I couldn't stop reading. Whatever Cassandra did this time around, she needs to keep doing it because the writing was engaging, kick ass and made me want more.

I know there's a lot of skeptics out there, so Kelly - why do you think people should take a chance on Lady Midnight?

Kelly

Without causing offense, mainly because it's so different from all her previous Shadowhunter novels. The writing is crisp and the humour brings such a sense of fun throughout the storyline. The characters are all likable and well developed, which I must admit I was surprised. But most of all, it's because all her previous tropes seem to have been omitted. There is no gruff male love interest, no female damsel in distress and no instant romance between characters. 

What do you think is the biggest difference is between Lady Midnight and her previous works?

Kynndra

It definitely has to be the characters for me. I was never a huge fan of Jace / Clary or even Tessa / Will / Jem. I'll be the black sheep and say that I found them to be sober and boring. I adored the way the characters in Lady Midnight were a breath of fresh air. There was humor, and just something entirely new this time around that snuffed out my previous dislike towards the Shadowhunter world. I think it's safe to say that Lady Midnight is probably Cassandra Clare's best work to date. For any of you who are unsure if you should read it, I highly encourage you to do so. It's unlike anything Cassie's done over and over in her past series.

Raelia and why I love this series

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May contain spoilers for book one Akarnae, See my review here

Raelia The Medoran Chronicles Book Two
Written by Lynette Noni
Fantasy, Magic
Published March 23rd 2016
Thank you to Pantera Press
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
Returning for a second year at Akarnae Academy with her gifted friends, Alexandra Jennings steps back through a doorway into Medora, the fantasy world that is full of impossibilities.

Despite the magical wonder of Medora, Alex’s life remains threatened by Aven Dalmarta, the banished prince from the Lost City of Meya who is out for her blood.

To protect the Medorans from Aven’s quest to reclaim his birthright, Alex and her friends seek out the Meyarin city and what remains of its ancient race.

Not sure who, or perhaps what, she is anymore, all Alex knows is that if she fails to keep Aven from reaching Meya, the lives of countless Medorans will be in danger. Can she protect them, or will all be lost?
Alex is now entering her second year as a student at Akarnae, a boarding school for gifted teens to nurtured and to fight against the darkness of their world. With her parents having returned from their expedition, they both agree that Akarnae is the best environment for Alex to continue learning about her new world and have agreed to join her to explore Medora, the magical plane here on Earth.

With the banished Mayarin prince Aven being able to access the hallowed grounds, Alex's training has intensified and is now facing her toughest challenge, taking the fight to Aven with the Mayarin's overseeing her progress. But nothing can prepare her for what's to come. A life will hang in the balance as one of her own will unknowingly betray her trust. Aven is desperate to gain access to the portal home that only Alex can open, Alex will need to fight against the banished prince with the weight of both worlds now resting on her shoulders.

Kelly's Thoughts

Raelia is a wonderful edition to The Medoran Chronicles, engaging and delightfully surprising. The storyline resumes shortly after Akarnae, after coming close to losing her freedom at the hands of Aven. Now Alex is back with a vengeance, her training has increased in order to protect the institute and the portal that Aven is so desperate to find.

After the revelations of the first book in the series, Alex's character growth was immense. She's always been resilient, but has taken her place at the Akarnae in her stride and is relishing in her new found role as a protector of the library and the institution itself. Old characters and friends return, while readers are introduced to new characters in the mystical kingdom of Meya. I enjoyed seeing characters such as the dashing Kaiden and roommate in D.C become part of the core character group, with much stronger storylines and interactions with Alex, Bear and Jordan. 

One of the most appealing aspects of The Medoran Chronicles is the adventure. Comparable to the Harry Potter series, it appeals to young adult and mature middle grade readers as the storyline is morally uncomplicated and doesn't rely on a romance to develop characters or further the storyline. It's a breath of fresh air. I loved the attraction blooming between Kaiden and Alex and hoping the third book in the series explores a potential romance between the two. 

Once again Lynette Noni's writing is a mixture of sass and humour. The series is perfect for non fantasy reader such as myself as it offers a lighter take on the genre, making it easy for young teens to engage with and relate to well written and it's depth of characters. 

I love a well written villain and I need more Aven. Aven is mysterious, sinister and delicious. He's single minded in his determination to find the doorway back to Meya, where he is now the exiled prince. I needed him to ignite and his cunning surprised and delighted me, even as villainous as he's portrayed. Be warned, Raelia ends with a heart wrenching revelation. The fate of one character rests upon Alex and her strength to fight.

The Final Verdict

Raelia is an wonderful installment in The Medoran Chronicles. First time author Lynette Noni is a magnificent storyteller, crafting a beautifully written, engaging and enchanting new young adult series with a touch of Australian charm and warmth.

My only gripe is that all the characters seem to mumble. Speak clearly children.

See How They Run

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May contain spoilers. See my review for All Fall Down

See How They Run Embassy Row Book Two
Written by Ally Carter
Contemporary, Mystery
Published in Australia February 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Scholastic Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions, from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace's past has come back to hunt her... And if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.
It's been seven days since Grace was embroiled in an international scandal on Embassy Row, where she is now trying to come to terms with the revelation over her mother's death and the scarred man that has plagued her nightmares since as long as she can remember. Brother Jamie has now returned home from West Point and has brought a friend, fellow student and recruit Spence who is more than happy to watch over Gracie, especially now that Alexei has returned. 

After a show of male dominance, Spence's body turns up washed up on Embassy Row and Alexei becomes the main suspect. The volatile Russian Embassy want to turn Alexei over to the authorities in order to maintain peace, but through a series of whispered conversations, Alexei is guilty until proven innocent and justice for the young Russian will be at the hands of his demise.

But what Grace uncovers while proving Alexei's innocence will bring her world crashing down. Spence's death isn't an accident and what he may have stumbled upon will put all their lives at risk. A long standing myth and centuries of secrets will reveal the foundations Embassy Row is built upon.

Kelly's Thoughts

Ally Carter is amazing. Not only has she yet again crafted an incredible installment in the Embassy Row series, but has upped the ante with more action, more suspense and a shitload more intrigue and danger that will ensure readers are kept on the edge of their seats. Once again we're transported back to Embassy Row, where nations live in unity but tensions remain at an all time high. It follows Gracie, the granddaughter of the United States delegate who is still coming to terms with her mothers death and the hand she played in what she sees as destroying her family. It's no wonder older brother Jamie has returned home. I found it strange that in the midst of what is a setback to Grace's mental health, her brother would bring a friend to tag along. Spence was suspiciously protective of Grace, especially as Alexei returned to the Embassy and even came to blows with the Russian. He added nothing to the storyline, and felt as though he was trying to take advantage of Grace's emotional state, even if he wasn't entirely sure why she was so fragile.

I didn't like Spence. As a character or attempting to become a love interest and I'm not surprised at Jamie's rage. In See How They Run, Grace now has more secrets to unravel with the introduction of the history and mythology behind Embassy Row, which surprised me. Sadly it didn't elaborate on the mystery beyond a treasure in which a secret society of woman on Embassy Row vow to protect. I'm hoping the third installment will expand on the mythology rather than the focus being almost solely on Grace's well being.

Grace and Alexei have a strange relationship. Initially Jamie's best friend who was asked to keep an eye on Grace in her brothers absence, Alexei and Grace are both attracted to one another but neither willing to admit how they feel. The romance between the two is a little too slow burning. I can understand why given Grace's situation but it's still frustrating for readers of the series nonetheless. It's far too drawn out.

The Final Verdict

I love this series. It's so wonderfully written and Grace is such a likable and intriguing character who always manages to find herself embroiled in the politics of living on Embassy Row. It's an engaging, quick read that is impossible to put down. But be warned, Ally Carter is known for her cliffhangers and this one's a doozy.