First and Then... Perfection

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First and Then
Written by Emma Mills
Contemporary, Sports, Romance
Published in Australia January 15th 2016
272 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★★
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them, first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
Rarely is a novel ever so utterly perfect that I've fallen in love from the very first page. First and Then was nothing short of immaculate and one of the loveliest contemporaries I've ever had the pleasure of reading.


UTTER. PERFECTION.

It follows the story of Devon, the girl, not the luncheon meat. She's an only child with doting parents and no real direction throughout her senior year of school. Then fourteen year old Foster comes to stay. Oh Foster, he was such a breath of fresh air. Adorably naive and so incredibly lovely, he's been abandoned by his mother and taken in by his aunt and uncle to restore a sense of normalcy and family. Since his father died, life with his neglectful mother has left him unemotional and mentally absent. It takes a significant part of First and Then for Devon to finally accept Foster as a part of her newly formed family unit but their relationship although tentative, was beautiful to watch them both grow as individuals and as new siblings.

Hello Ezra Lynley. Ezra is the golden boy of football and a new recruit, seemingly untouchable yet takes an interest in Foster in the shared physical education class along with Devon. Although Foster is oblivious, the tension between Devon and Ezra is delicious and he begins helping Foster learn the basics of touch football and the two form a close bond. I know nothing about American football but First and Then didn't delve too deeply into the technical side of the sport thankfully, but more so the team comradery and etiquette of the game. 

The bond between Ezra and Foster began as a worship type relationship and although beyond the college scouts and attention, Ezra is never comfortable with the admiration. He isn't the typical high school senior and is determined not to let his status define him. He's quiet, reserved and gives off a tortured impression. It's Devon who is yet to fall under his spell, she's in love with her best friend in Cass, who as the storyline moved forward really surprised me and I felt I never truly had a sense of who he was beyond how Devon had seen him.

The Final Verdict

The underlying storyline of acceptance and learning to trust was beautiful and lovingly written. I laughed, I cried and was utterly smitten with First and Then and in particular, Foster. Not often does a book come along that makes you feel how special it is to delve into the fictional worlds of authors, First and Them made me feel giddy as I turned the final page and gave me one hell of a book hangover.

Kelly is still swooning over the loveliness of First and Then. But Kelly is sick of talking about herself in the third person.


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Giveaway! Win the entire Mortal Instruments series!

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To celebrate the release of the new Shadowhunters series by Cassandra Clare which premiered in Australia on January 14th on Netflix, Walker Books Australia are giving away an entire set of the newly rebranded The Mortal Instruments series to one lucky Australian winner. That's six books!

The Mortal Instruments

Goodreads


 

Goodreads


 

Goodreads


Goodreads

Goodreads

Goodreads

What can you expect from The Mortal Instruments series?


Romance



Intense hair flicking



Magnus Magic



Mike Chang with killer hair



Magnus on a Segway



Balls of light



killer seraph blades wielded by the apprentice



And the Old Spice guy. Wait... What?


Check out the netflix exclusive trailer


Giveaway!

One lucky Aussie will win the entire set of newly branded books in The Mortal Instruments series. To enter, you must be an Australian resident, no sneaky internationals please. Follow the prompts and cross your fingers. If you're under the age of thirteen, please ask your parents permission first. Giveaway is sponsored by the lovely folk at Walker Books Australia and the newly branded series will be available in all good bookstores during February.

Don't forget to check out the Shadowhunters series on Netflix

Prince's Gambit by C.S. Pacat

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Contains spoilers for Captive Prince. See my book one review here.

Prince's Gambit
Captive Prince: Book Two
Written by C.S. Pacat
Fantasy, Adult, LGBT
Published July 1st 2015 by Viking: Penguin (org 2012)
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★★★★★
With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master Prince Laurent must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgeling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow...

Damen is Prince Laurent's slave. He has fallen into the duty, waiting for the perfect time to escape and retake his throne that was taken from him by his traitorous brother, Kastor. Meanwhile, Damen must hide who he truly is - Damiano, Prince Killer - the very same man who struck down Laurent's brother six years prior. In order to keep his identity hidden, Damen must bow to the golden prince of Vere.

In order to prove himself ready to take the throne, Laurent must set off to the battlefields. Behind the scenes there is a bigger plot at play. Laurent's uncle, the Regent, has concocted a plan to kill his nephew before he can become King of Vere. Damen and Laurent must come together if either are to survive the battle that is coming their way. Their journey to the Akielon border is writhe with traps and betrayal which undoubtedly pushes the two closer.

Kynndra's Thoughts

OH. MY. GOD. That was incredible. I could not have asked for a better sequel than what Prince's Gambit offered. I could not picture anything better than this. You'll have to forgive me for the disgusting amount of gushing that is about to take place - because believe me when I say this: I have never experienced the emotions that this book has put me through. Never in my entire life have I loved a book as much as I did this. It's hard to say that, as I've read some impeccable stories in my life but nothing such as this. These are books that will remain with me forever.

The characters are what make this story even half as great as it was. I've never felt myself so enamoured by two characters before. The depth both individuals have is astounding, compelling and all around desirable. Damen has evolved from a resisting slave to a person that Laurent can confide and trust in. Laurent has evolved from a vile snake to something entirely different - a man with his own demons. But this all takes time, none of it comes easy. Pacat was able to master the art of character growth, making the story betwixt our characters fascinating and heart wrenching.

“Laurent wasn't loved. Laurent wasn't liked. Even among his own men, who would follow him off a cliff, there was the unequivocal consensus that Laurent was, as Orlant had once described him, a cast iron bitch, that it was a very bad idea to get on his bad side, and that as for his good side, he didn't have one.”

I loved every moment of Damen and Laurent's interactions. Ack, I wish I could explain just how much, but it is one of those things that the reader must experience on their own. Others, I think perceive every situation within these books differently. Every moment, every glace between Laurent and Damen means something. It was honestly just such a pleasure to see and experience so many different emotions throughout these 380 pages. I felt everything from sadness, girly glee, anxiety to anger - which is what I need from a book. I need to feel something, or the book means almost nothing to me.

The plot was much more prevalent in the Prince's Gambit than in Captive Prince. It's still a character driven story, but the plot has definitely surfaced full force. Damen and Laurent are no longer in the palace; therefore, so much more can happen to them while the men ride out towards battle. Together, they must beat the Regent at his own wicked game. It was so stressful reading some of the parts due to the sheer amount of backstabbing that goes down. I shall say no more on this matter, but mark me damned and fooled. I was blindsided every step of the way.

'He needs me' said Damen. 'I don't care if you tell the world.'

One thing I noticed that Pacat does exceedingly well (other than the obvious) is that she can write politics in a way that actually has me holding on to every sentence. The Vere kingdom is completely off kilter - it goes by its own rules which was made clear in book one. Seeing the political side of this well drawn out world quickly became a treat. It feels weird saying it, but the political side of the story is one I anticipate seeing where it goes in book three.

Finally, as this is a M/M novel - there is obviously some romance to be mentioned. Albeit, I don't quite know if I can call it a romance (not yet). When I say this book has a slow burning romance going on, I mean slow. This is not in any way shape or form a quick process. But I wouldn't have it any other way. This book made me realise I totally have a thing for the hate turning into love trope. I swooned. I cried. Damen and Laurent are the definition of an OTP (One True Pair).

In Conclusion

READ THIS SERIES. DON'T ASK QUESTIONS. JUST READ. PLEASE FANGIRL WITH MY POOR SOUL.

Kynndra is dying from the end of this book and would trade all her books to get ahold of Kings Rising (book three).


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This Raging MORPHEUS... wait, what?

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This Raging Light
Written by Estelle Laure
Contemporary, Romance
Published January 12th 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★
How is it that you suddenly notice a person? How is it that one day Digby was my best friend's admittedly cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?

Lucille has bigger problems than falling for her best friend's unavailable brother. Her mom has gone, leaving her to look after her sister, Wren. With bills mounting up and appearances to keep, Lucille is holding it together, just.

A stunning debut to devour in one sitting, Laure captures completely the agony and ecstasy of first love.

Kelly's Thoughts

This Raging Light follows the story of Lucille, who's mother left she and younger sister Wren for an emotional reprieve and neither daughter has heard from their mother since. The bills are mounting and Lucille only being seventeen, needs to put her life on hold and become a parent at such a tender age, or risk losing the only family she now has. I felt for Lucille, shouldered with more responsibility than any child at her age should bear, their mother hadn't been the same since their father walked out after breaking down, resentful that his family relied upon him and had ruined his carefree life. Lucille knows she can't ask for help and risk intervention from the authorities, especially with Wren believing their mother will eventually return.

The only person Lucille can rely on is former next door neighbour and best friend Eden and by extension her twin, the unavailable Digby who Lucille had secretly fallen for years ago. Eden was a strange character, I liked her for the most part but through Lucille's storyline, painted her in a not so favourable light. She's a ballet dancer and in the midst of one of the most important auditions of her life but seems more focused on being a thinner version of herself, smoking rather than promoting a healthy body image. Lucille seemingly expecting her friend to answer her every beck and call. Of course Eden wants nothing more than to help her best friend in her time of need, but I feel Lucille took advantage of her generosity and when Eden was unavailable, then the duty seemed to fall to Digby.

Lucille is in love with Digby, having grown up together as children. But Digby is in a long term relationship and even with Eden warning her friend not to become involved, she ignores Eden and pursues him. Digby is nothing short of an asshole, he not only continues to encourage Lucille's feelings but also reciprocates, barely mentioning his long term girlfriend who seems to be conveniently absent while he becomes Lucille's chauffeur. Deception aside, I couldn't invest in their connection. Having known one another for years, he chooses when Lucille is at her lowest point to confess he has feelings for her? Nothing a swift kick to the testicles won't fix. If your mother walks out making you an instant parent, the last thing you'd be thinking about is wrapping yourself around anyone, never mind this asshole.

There is no doubt that Lucille is struggling with her new found parenthood, I loved her determination to take the financial reins of their situation and ensure that Wren would be able to remain in her own home with a sense of normality, even when their predicament was anything but. But I found aspects of Lucille's personality infuriating. Her deception, but also that she was incredibly irresponsible at times with leaving Wren in the middle of the night after often falling asleep distraught just to meet Eden. To talk. Honestly, I wouldn't ask this girl to take care of a house plant while I was in the next room.

Wren was absolutely gorgeous. Obsessed with the Food Network, she was such a lovely character and I would have loved to have seen the storyline as told through her thoughts.

While I did enjoy it, the storyline, was far too busy. A father that was institutionalised, a missing mother, a complicated romance, the mystery surrounding a good samaritan that was helping Lucille out in her time of need and an accident that really wasn't necessary. It was a little too much and created excess drama which I felt stunted character growth.

The Final Verdict

This Raging Light was a light and quick read, even given the seriousness of the storyline. Although I couldn't connect with Lucille or the romance between she and Digby, Wren was the shining light in an otherwise morally murky storyline. Much more suited for the younger teen audience, I did enjoy glimpses of Estelle Laure's often lyrical and fearless style of writing. Sometimes less really is more, but with an incredibly open ended final page, I am looking forward to seeing what happens to Lucille and Wren. But hopefully Digby will go missing and never to be heard of again.

Contains spoilers for Splintered, Unhinged and Ensnared

Untamed Splintered Book 3.5
Written by A. G. Howard
Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Published January 1st 2016
240 Pages
Thank you to Thames and Hudson Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their memories of Wonderland.

In Six Impossible Things, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her life after Ensnared, and the role magic plays in preserving the happiness of those she loves. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and rescuing the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

This collection expands upon Ensnared's epilogue, and includes some deleted scenes to provide a 'director’s cut' glimpse into the past and futures of our favorite Splintered characters.

Kelly's Thoughts

I absolutely adored A. G. Howard's Splintered series, an Alice in Wonderland retelling where Alyssa finds herself in the role of a new and edgier version of Alice Liddell, who is also incidentally her grandmother. Imagine a Wonderland where the White Rabbit is rabid skin and bones, where Queens reign and battle for supremacy while children are taken, and only Alyssa can regenerate the dying landscape and take her rightful place as Queen.

Untamed is a companion novel featuring three stories to transport readers back into A. G. Howard's reimagined world. The Boy in the Web is Alyssa's mothers story, sharing how she met her husband and Alyssa's father, her mental health and being placed within an asylum and protecting her only daughter. She's now enjoying life again, but fears for Alyssa's well being and the wicked that Wonderland can create. The Moth in the Mirror follows the rivalry of Jeb and Morpheus, as each battle for Alyssa's affections. Told in alternating points of view, the two alpha males bond over past memories and Jeb's muse to resurrect Morpheus' dying Wonderland.

But by far the most engaging story is Six Impossible Things, the story readers have been waiting for. It tells the story of Alyssa's eternity and it was nothing short of lovely to revisit the dark and magical landscape... And Morpheus. It's the finale I wish had been explored for Ensnared, the Queen taking her rightful place beside Morpheus and together, ruling over Wonderland. The two still share a familiarity, with Morpheus having prepared Alyssa for her rightful reign within her dreams while her waking hours were devoted to Jeb and the life they had shared with one another. As Alyssa recalls a long life of love and contentment, we learn more about what happened after the final page of Ensnared was turned, her family, her life and the moments that defined her as a devoted daughter, friend, wife and as a mother herself. It was poignant and emotional, but I loved each moment she shared with readers. 

The Final Verdict

MORPHEUS. Like previous installments, yet again the world building is vivid and delicious and although I couldn't connect to Alyssa's mother and her story, I appreciated how each character within the series felt complete. There are a few unexpected surprises woven throughout, which only added to my anticipation of what I was waiting for... Morpheus and his own happy ending.

Kelly is a part time crime fighter, a dairy connoisseur and possibly the best dancer the world has ever seen. She's also combining a few reviews into one post, to clear her backlog of reviews in draft.


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We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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We Are the Ants
Contemporary 
Written by Shaun David Hutchinson
Young Adult, LGBT, Science Fiction
Published January 19th 2016 by Simon Pulse
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★★★☆
There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
Henry has 144 days to prevent the end of the world. When he is abducted by aliens, Henry is told he has a choice. He can either press the button and save all of humanity, or let the world be destroyed (how he doesn't know, but he comes up with some pretty creative ideas). Henry chooses to wait, to see if the world is worth saving. He has until January 29th, 2016 to make up his mind - however, Henry will soon find that his choice is not all that easy. Life has never been easy for Henry Denton. Throughout high school he has been bullied, beat down and walked on by his peers. Not only that, but he's still struggling to comprehend why his boyfriend took his own life.

Throughout the throng of 144 days, Henry must discover if his own unhappiness makes life worthless. He must battle depression and the underlying blame he puts on himself for the death of his boyfriend and for his dad leaving his family when he was just a child. But more importantly, Henry must discover if there is anything worth living for or if the world is just damned. His journey leads down many avenues from loss, to gain to friendship and to love.

Kynndra's Thoughts

I'm baffled by this story. I can't fully get a handle on if I really enjoyed this book or if I wanted to enjoy it so bad I've convinced myself I did. I was rather excited when I read the synopsis because I'm all for aliens and self discovery. I was super happy when I picked my copy of it up because it was at the top of my TBR. But I'm not sure if my expectations were too high, or if maybe it was way different than what I expected? This was a close four star read for me most definitely so in no way was it bad - it was just so unique, but in a way that makes me feel lost in my thoughts.

Let me start by saying that the tone and the voice of this book was so palpable. Henry is one of the most distinct characters I've read, he's humorous but in a dark and pessimistic way. It was sad at some points for sure, but I also found myself laughing at how real he was. I realized while reading that many of my thoughts were similar to Henry's. Frequently I do ask myself, is the world worth saving? Have we as a human race fucked up so bad that maybe we'd all be better off letting the planet be destroyed? I'm not someone who would instantly hit that big red button to save the world from annihilation. I'm just not, I wish I was but I'm really not. It was interesting to see what these 144 days would reveal to Henry - and maybe even to myself.

"'There's an amazing world out there for you to discover, Henry Denton, but you have to be willing to discover yourself first.'

The bell rang, saving me, and we all rose like Pavlovian dogs, eager to run to our next classes. Except Diego. He was still sitting, like he was waiting for me to say something, but I didn't know what. Finally I said, 'What if I don't give a shit about the world?'

Diego gathered our trash and frowned. 'I'd say that's pretty fucking sad.'

'Why?'

'Because the world is so beautiful.'"

That being said, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the other characters. Marcus especially. He was a shitty person, but I couldn't help but pity him. Audrey didn't affect me in a huge way (I'm not sure if she was supposed to) but she was good to Henry so I was alright with her. Diego was another one that made me uneasy - I was worried that a love interest would be the reason to save the world. I absolutely did not want that because it's so cliche. Albeit, Diego was a mysterious and quirky character that I became fond of after a period of time. Henry was definitely my favorite though, he was an extremely entertaining character alongside Charlie and Nana.

The plot. The aliens. Shaun constructed such a weird but compelling tale. You can tell he poured a lot of heart and soul into this one. He took the time to understand the emotions of a teenager - of a person. I think that's what I loved most about We Are the Ants. It's so human, it's so undeniably real that I had to take a step back while I was reading. I loved the message that Shaun screamed throughout his clever, sharp and witty writing. I truly took something personal out of this story.

I did however find that I might have missed some hidden plot. This is no fault to the author, as I've never been all that perceptive. I got the vibes that the author was alluding to something else going on. But it just went way over my head. If someone could fill me in, please message me on Twitter because wow I'm slow and pretty sure I missed the memo on something.

in conclusion

We Are the Ants was a raw and heart wrenching portrayal of surviving the hardships of this world. It faces multiple issues ranging from bullying, abandonment, suicide, and mental illness. Shaun Hutchinson writes from the POV of a teenager and hits the nail right on the head. I loved Henry and I adored the message I got out of his story. I closed the book confident that if given the choice that I would save the world no matter the quality of my own life because there is always something worth living for. I absolutely recommend it, despite the fact that I'm still not 100% on how I feel.

Kynndra is going to work on her resume and prepare for the upcoming months where she will hopefully be moving back to Canada!


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Netgalley Reviews...

How Many Letters Are In Goodbye?
Written by Yvonne Cassidy
Contemporary, New York, LGBTQI
Expected Publication March 2016
456 Pages
Thank you to Flux via Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Seventeen year old Rhea Farrell carries the scars of a childhood accident in which she lost her arm. But she also carries scars that aren't so visible, the loss of a mother she hardly remembers, the impact of her father's drinking, and her confusion and pain around accepting her sexuality.

When Rhea runs away, she turns to the person she always wished she could confide in, her mother. And just like she used to do as a little girl, Rhea starts to write her letters, to tell her things she can't tell anyone else, to share her fears, to ask for help. Rhea's journey on the streets of New York brings her deeper into her mother's past, where she uncovers buried family secrets. And as she finds out more about the woman her mother truly was, Rhea also discovers just what kind of woman she wants to be.
Rhea lives her life on the streets of New York, relying on her only friend in Sergei selling his body for enough to help the unlikely pair survive another night. Rhea once lived a quiet life back in Ireland after her mother drowned and left her in the care of her father until a tragic accident claimed his life. With her only known living relative in Aunt Ruth having swept the now seventeen year old away to the United States, Rhea dreams of the bright lights of New York and following in her mother's footsteps. But being part of a family again isn't what Rhea expected or wants. At odds with her aunts partner and daughter, Rhea has no other choice but to leave the toxic environment and forge her own path into the world.

In a series of letters to her deceased mother while living on the streets, Rhea begins to connect with the woman she barely remembers, waiting for a freedom her mother so desperately tried to find.

Kelly's Thoughts

How Many Letters Are In Goodbye was an emotional and poignant read, so why did I feel so disconnected? Rhea was a formidable character, her past experiences have left her with a genuine likability but it felt as though the length of the storyline allowed her story to lose impact. It begins with Rhea in New York, having fled her aunts new house in Florida where the two moved in with her aunts boyfriend and his teenage daughter, the popular and sullen Laurie. Herein lies my issue. I don't often speak of characters with such disdain but Laurie's character made me livid or perhaps it's how she was portrayed. Although Rhea is gay, Laurie is unsure of her sexuality and wants to explore. I still believe Laurie could have been used as a tool for teens to relate to that feeling of finding your sexual identity, but it felt as though it was sinister and manipulative sadly. Had the concept been explored in positive light rather than just a secretive fling, my attitude towards How Many Letters In Goodbye may have been significantly different.

Yvonne Cassidy should be applauded for broaching what are generally confronting points of discussion. Abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness and prostitution. The loss of Rhea's arm at a young age felt as though it had very little impact. She was able, but was discriminated against by others especially when seeking employment. Her friendship with Sergei felt like little more than convenience, another body on the street who could provide her with a sense of safety and normalcy from what seemed to be out of obligation.

The storyline begins in the year 1999 and takes place over a few months. I'm assuming that may have been the period of Yvonne Cassidy's teen years as there doesn't seem to be any other explanation as to why, only that perhaps she felt it was more authentic. I did enjoy Rhea's recovery and that to heal she understood the need for professional help when dealing with her loss and the secrets she uncovers surrounding her mothers death, rather than the quick fix solutions so many young adult titles generally offer the reader. The most appealing aspect of How Many Letters Are In Goodbye is that is was messy. The moments of reflection and solitude, then and engaging and almost frantic page turner that unveils Rhea's story slowly.

The Final Verdict

But it was too long and the brutal nature of the storyline lost impact with me. Rhea's life on the streets seemed to rehash the same descriptive nature of being homeless, bloating the storyline and lacking that emotional connection sadly. It held promise, but unfortunately the length and lack of connection with it's characters made for a long and often rambling read.



Thicker Than Water
Written by Brigid Kemmerer
Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Published December 29th 2015
432 Pages
Thank you to Kensington Publishing via Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight up dangerous to Thomas. Her friend was the other murder victim. And she’d like a couple answers. Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden.
It's just Thomas and his stepfather Stan now, after his mother's brutal murder in which Thomas is the prime suspect. Having moved to a new town and leaving his friends behind, eighteen year old Thomas should have been settling into his new home with his new family, but instead the entire town of Garretts Mill see the outsider as guilty until proven innocent after finding his mother slain in her bed. Thomas only wants to grieve for his mother but Charlotte approaches the sullen teen at his mother's funeral, their attraction is undeniable and they're not the only ones who have noticed.

Charlotte is the only daughter of a local police officer, with three older brothers also following in their fathers footsteps. They already believe that Thomas is guilty of killing his mother but without enough evidence, they are willing to settle for harassment and making Thomas' meager existence a nightmare. Even with the threat of prison, Thomas can't seem to stay away from the youngest Rooker sibling... And it seems that Charlotte may be the only person to believe his innocence. 

Through a series of rendezvous and secret meetings, together Thomas and Charlotte need to clear his name but when Charlotte is attacked, all signs point to Thomas and the Rooker Boys will stop at nothing to see him behind bars.

Kelly's Thoughts

Thicker Than Water wasn't at all what I had expected. Intense, sultry and enjoyable for the most part. From the first few pages I gathered it was little more than a typical young adult contemporary but of course well written and engaging. Sweet, small town girl falls for the new bad boy in town, he's the town pariah and she wants to rescue his soul. They fall in love, he changes his ways and they live happily ever after. Thicker Than Water isn't that book. It's a complex contemporary blended with a paranormal romance that felt darker than another teen read, Although certain aspects left me a little underwhelmed, I enjoyed it.

Thomas isn't a bad boy but he's the only suspect in a murder investigation after his mother is found slain in her bed. Having been married to the quiet and awkward Stan only a week prior, Thomas and his new stepfather are both at odds without the woman who was both their common link. While Stan isn't sure how to relate to a teenage boy, he's patient and kind which is more than Thomas and his attitude deserve at the moment. The relationship between Thomas and Charlotte was incredibly intense and both clearly attracted to the other but not willing to act on those feelings. Due to her overbearing family, Thomas felt that Charlotte couldn't be trusted and luring him into a confession on behalf of her brothers while Charlotte continued to second guess Thomas and whether or not he killed his own mother.

Although I did enjoy the romance somewhat, their connection didn't feel genuine beyond their physical attraction. I found Charlotte's character unremarkable and bland, her feelings towards Thomas felt more as though he was little more than a stage of her teen rebellion. She was determined to seek out Thomas at every opportunity, knowing her older siblings had threatened Thomas, Charlotte is still willing to endanger his life. The paranormal twist did explain the reasoning behind why Charlotte was drawn to Thomas, it was introduced far too late within the storyline to try to reconnect to the characters.

The paranormal element was surprising and felt almost like a quick fix to wrap up the storyline sadly. It flowed wonderfully as a contemporary and despite not being able to connect to the characters, the reveal left me feeling annoyed and frustrated.

The Final Verdict

Although enjoyable, Thicker Than Water felt as though something was missing. It lacked an emotional connection and the paranormal elements were awkward and felt more like an afterthought than part of the storyline. Readers desperately need a sequel to understand the paranormal aspect of Thomas' life and not a bizarre solution to wrap up the storyline. It was wonderfully written but would have preferred a contemporary, rather than the strange paranormal it ended up being.

Stop, Collaborate and listen
Kelly is back with a brand new invention.
She's not really, she just enjoys quoting Vanilla Ice lyrics. Word.


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The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

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Cover Redesign by me.

The Foxhole Court
All for the Game: Book One
Written by Nora Sakavic
Young Adult, Sports, LGBT
Published January 15th 2013 by Smashwords Edition
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.
Neil Josten has lived his entire life on the run from his father. A father who would not hesitate to kill Neil if he is were to be found. Neil finds himself in the small town of Millport with a population of nine hundred. It is there that the coach from Palmetto State University finds him and offers him a spot on the team. PSU boasts one of the most aggressive Exy (a fictional sport) teams in America - the Foxes. It is no secret that to qualify, one must have had a difficult life.

After much consideration, Neil agrees to join the team - understanding the consequences of his face being flashed on plasma screens all over the nation making him a viable find for his father. However, Neil is not alone in his fight for survival. The Foxes consist of ten kids that are damaged and broken in their own way. The entire team has everything to gain, yet nothing to lose which makes them dangerous opponents both on and off the court.

Kynndra's Thoughts

I won't do this book justice. I know I won't. I can't even wrap myself around my thoughts at the moment. I'm stumbling through the woods trying to find my way out. I'm quickly discovering that this will be a series that will hold onto my soul forever. One of those books where you go nothing can get better than this book. I mean that with every bit of me. My only complaint is that the original cover is ugly, I had to make my own because I knew with one glance at the other one people would think it was a cheap story based on the lazy cover (shh we all care about the cover a little bit).

This book kept me awake. I finished it at nearly 3:30 AM and I couldn't sleep until 5:40 AM simply because I was worried for the characters as if they were real people. I had to hold off reading the second right at that moment because I knew if I started I probably wouldn't have stopped. I think when people hear a book consists of sports, we wrinkle our noses (unless sports are your thing). In my case, I hate sports so that was my initial reaction when I read the synopsis. But I was wrong, and 100% ignorant. I'm happy I pulled myself out of my shallowness and read this book.

Also the Exy (sports) scenes are actually bad ass and I was always into them.

I know I say a lot of the books I read are my favorites. That's because I'm open to enjoying just about everything as long as it entertains me. But this was different. The Foxhole Court gnawed a gaping wound into my feelings, it left me shattered. These characters, all ten of them broke my damn heart. They're on the team for a reason, horrible and gut wrenching reasons. But they are still strong. They are fighters, especially our MC's (Neil, Kevin and Andrew). This book consisted of the richest cast of characters I've ever read. Each was so different and had different personalities and voices.

"People want to pretend people like us don't exist, you know? Everyone hopes we're someone else's problem to solve. They don't understand, so they don't know where to start. They feel overwhelmed and give up before they've taken the first step."

The plot was brilliant. Despite the book heavily focusing on Exy, the plot was always up in your face. Neil puts himself in a vulnerable position, after eight years of running he has finally crept out of the shadows. His dad is a psychopath, and he knows one day he'll come for him. Not only that, but some of his teammates are rabid and viscious in their ways. Some will make Neil earn his place on the court, some will make him wish he never accepted the position. Either way, Neil must go through hell and back throughout the book. It made for a fantastic thrill ride that always had me nervous and pleading for the safety of Neil. Plus, there's a few plot twists that put me through the ringer.

The writing is a bit unpolished, but I think that's what added a special effect to it. There are no pretty words to nurture the nasty world the Foxes were birthed in. Nora Sakavic made sure to emphasize that she has no problem hurting a character. Nothing is predictable, nobody is safe. The Foxes have been fighting tooth and nail since birth. They'll fight to survive no matter the end result.

I probably won't review the next two, but since I've read them I'll tell you right now: This series is fucking amazing. It's so dear to me that I can't begin to tell you all how much the story and the characters meant to me. I don't care what I read after, nothing will beat this series.

in conclusion

Give this book a chance. You don't even have to spend your money on it, its free on Amazon and Smashwords. The sequels are only a dollar each. It's everything: broken boys and girls, bruises and blood, tears and sweat. The characters are loveable in so many ways, despite their flaws they are unhateable. The plot is terrifying yet exciting. The writing is raw and focused on telling a twisted and soul sucking story. There's nothing quite like this. I plead for everyone to read it and suffer with me.

Kynndra is going to go curl up on the heater and watch some X-Files while wallowing away about the end of this book.


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Breathtaking... Swallow The Air

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Swallow The Air
Written by Tara June Winch
Contemporary, Cultural, Diversity
10th Anniversary Edition Published January 1st 2016
216 Pages
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
When May’s mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn’t seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets out to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.

Her journey leads her from the Australian east coast to the far north, but it is the people she meets, not the destinations, that teach her what it is to belong.

Swallow the Air is an unforgettable story of living in a torn world and finding the thread to help sew it back together.
Aboriginal girl May Gibson's mother tragically took her own life, leaving May and older brother Billy behind. The two now find themselves living with their Aunt, a woman dependent on alcohol and abused by her boyfriend until Billy defends the woman who took the two orphaned children into her home. Billy walked out, while May stayed behind to pick up what little hope remained.

We didn't talk about Mum or our Dad's or all the booze and shit around us, we knew the world in the same way that we knew each other, in the quietness than we shared.

May wants to feel a sense of family once more, her journey taking her back to her ancestral community where her mother once shared her stories. Along her path to family, May encounters others that will shape her, her experiences driving her further into the wide, red land.

Kelly's Thoughts

Swallow The Air is absolutely breathtaking. An emotional journey of Australia and it's indigenous community through the eyes of a young girl touched by sadness. Never have I felt so moved by any work of fiction. May was a character representative of aspects of our broken country, where Aboriginal communities are left behind while white society moves forward. Her struggle made my heart ache with grief, losing her mother at such a tender age and trying to find that sense of family once more.

The prose is lyrical, yet incredibly haunting. The vividness of May's journey from the mining Town of Wollongong to the far north of Australia truly is a love letter to outback Australia. She sees beauty in the land we take for granted while her vision without a doubt creating wanderlust in readers. Equally exposed to abuse as she is to the kindness strangers, May's spirit shines. She's determined and intelligent, but hasn't been given an opportunity for an education or carefree life that most children are now afforded, so seeks out the family she never knew to learn about herself and her heritage.

Even beyond the storyline, the writing is immaculate. A mixture of lyricism and stark rawness rarely seen in young adult fiction.

Daylight blanching our dreamings, the gritty air fuming back to our noses, engines starting back in our listening, and we remember what we're all really seeing. Beach lines of gutters, trunks of layered windows, metal wings fleeing the sky, and dinner on the stove. We don't mind, because anytime we can leave in our minds.

One of the realities May also faces is how Indigenous Australians can be treated by our police, authorities and our communities. May's life isn't a stereotype, she's a young woman that society as a whole has neglected, representing our traditional land owners that have been overlooked. May's journey to search for her white father makes for an incredibly emotional read, finding herself, finding who she is and rising above the issues that plague her community and forging her own path.

The Final Verdict

Swallow The Air is a must read, in particular for fellow Australians who love fictional stories that are true to life. May's story is heartbreaking, poignant and joyful and I loved each and every moment of her journey. It's a love letter to our wide, red land despite our issues and differences. Tara June Winch is a phenomenal author who places the reader on the road to self discovery along with May, where you will share the sadness and hope of this remarkable young lady.

Kelly loved Swallow The Air and urges you all to buy a copy. Or ten. If you need more diversity within your young adult, a quiet lyricism and a storyline that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, buy it.


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