The Worldwalker Trilogy

See my review for Trial by Fire

Firewalker
The Worldwalker Trilogy Book Two
Written by Josephine Angelini
Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic
Published September 8th 2015
528 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★
Lily Proctor has made it back to her own universe, and it's finally time for her and Rowan to be happy and relax. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape, and they must hide her new magic for the safety of the world, but compared to fighting the monstrous Woven and leading armies in the alternate Salem, life is looking good.

'You think I'm a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified.'

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. Lily is the closest version of herself she's ever seen in all her worldwalking, and Lillian's running out of time.

If she can't persuade Lily and Rowan to return to her world, she'll have to find a way to make them come back.
Escaping with only her life and leaving behind a brigade of Claimed Outlanders, Lily has now returned home but is unable to escape Lillian's clutches. With Rowan now in Lily's world, Rowan feels the lure of returning to his own dimension to fight against the injustice of Lillian's tyrannical rule over the thirteen cities. But how can he leave Lily when she's now being hunted in her own world?

Rowan and Lily will need to enlist the services of Lily's friends in Tristan, Breakfast and Una, who are all potential Mechanics and drawn to one another in both dimensions where versions of themselves reside. As Rowan's animosity grows, Lily begins to understand Lillian's motives when the two alternate Witches share memories through Mindspeak. What lead Lillian to eradicate the scientists and why she had sentenced Rowan's father to death.

The more Lily understands, the greater the divide between Lily and Rowan becomes. But when Lily's family is the target of Lillian's henchmen, she soon comes to realise that to keep her loved ones safe, Lily must return to Lillian's dimension and gather her Claimed against the Lady of Salem or risk destroying her world.

Witch's Pyre
The Worldwalker Trilogy Book Three
Written by Josephine Angelini
Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic
Published September 8th 2015
528 Pages
Thank you to Netgalley & Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★
Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and, after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love, she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices... And when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?
Lily now has a new potential ally to contend with. Welcomed into the new community of Bower City, Lily begins to mourn all she has lost over their harrowing journey. Slain friends as a result of the Hive while the Outlanders continue to perish at the hands of the Woven. Bower City is wondrous, a city with a sense of community where Claiming is illegal and people live of their own free will. But in Lillian's world, nothing is ever what it seems.

My Thoughts

The Worldwalker Trilogy was enthralling, a blend of fantasy with a science fiction flourish. Character driven, the series follows the storyline of Lily who was summoned to a world by her namesake, a witch who commands her world with cruelty and genocide. Although Lily has now gained a greater understanding of who Lillian is, it's apparent that the two share little more than namesakes. Both Lily and Lillian were wonderfully written, distinct and refined. In Trial by Fire, the romance between Lily and Rowan felt incredibly awkward, given his connection to Lillian being her former head Mechanic and lover. Firewalker and Witch's Pyre sees the dynamics of their relationship change. Lily continues to engage with Lillian telepathically with Rowan concerned that Lily is being manipulated, when seemingly he also aspires to use the young woman for his own agenda. Against Lillian.

Lily is a relatable and reliable character, deserving of a love interest with charisma and charm. The romance between Lily and Rowan was dubious. Rowan lacks passion and personality, his character felt incredibly rigid and although I do enjoy a stoic love interest, Rowan didn't develop as a character and I couldn't find a sense of who he was apart from being contrived. 

I adored Lillian. Lillian was tenacious and ambitious. She posed her own series of ulterior motives, but through Rowan's lack of trust and feeling of deception, she was painted as the villain. I was elated as a reader to see Lily using her own intuition and not allowing herself to be affected by Rowan and his resentment. All too often, the inexperienced protagonist falls victim to the manipulations of her love interest and seeing Lily confront Rowan was a breath of fresh air. Go Lily!

The friendship between Lily and Tristan is strained, but with the introduction of Tristan's best friend Breakfast and his new girlfriend Una, provided a lightness throughout the storyline. Breakfast and Una were enchanting. Breakfast is compassionate and gentle, while Una prepares herself for battle, Rowan shares Lily's true identity with her friends despite her wishes. While Lily's newly found status justifies why they each feel an attraction to protect Lily, I hadn't expected Lily's friends to be accepting or for Rowan to enlist their aide. If you've just been told your formerly frail friend is an influential witch, you would expect a little more disbelief.

What I absolutely adored was the world building throughout the series, so wonderfully vivid. I enjoyed the contrast between Lily and Lillian's worlds, as varied as the two women themselves. Sadly Rowan's Native heritage isn't explored beyond the concept of Spiritwalking, as taught to Lily by a Native Shaman. The romance felt dubious and the relationship between Lily and Rowan was incredibly insincere but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Final Verdict

Josephine Angelini is a wonderful author, blending fantasy and science fiction seamlessly into a captivating storyline. Vivid world building, fierce female characters and when all too often young adult authors tend to unnecessarily complicate themes of parallel worlds, The Worldwalker Trilogy is effortless and engaging. Highly recommended.

Nerve

Nerve
Written by Jeanne Ryan
Contemporary, Thriller
Published July 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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★★☆
A high stakes online game of dares turns deadly.

When Vee is picked to be a player in Nerve, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. It tempts her with amazing prizes taken from her personal online page and teams her up with her perfect boy, sizzling hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating, Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn. Just how far will Vee go before she loses Nerve?

Nerve is in cinemas now, starring Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Juliette Lewis.
For quiet and reserved Vee, she's always lived her life behind the theatre curtain, adhering to authority and rebuilding her tentative relationship with her parents. Nerve, a reality show based on the daring and provocative, where players compete for honour and pride. Fuelled by spite, Vee applies to both challenge herself and the misconception of her innocence by entering a preliminary dare by dousing herself in water at a local coffee house.

Enticed by cash and prizes, Vee and fellow stagehand Tommy begin their night of adventure, despite her promise to Sydney, Vee's best friend and Nerve enthusiast. As the stakes increase, so does the danger and Vee is playing a game in which there are no winners. Only survivors.

My Thoughts

Nerve was highly entertaining, a cautionary storyline of actions, consequences and foremost, greed. Vee is a quiet achiever, a stagehand which sees her transform her fellow students behind the curtain. Vee has always lived in Sydney's shadow, her best friend and leading lady of their high school theatre is loved by all and adored by many. It's Sydney's onstage leading man in which Vee has developed an interest but he sees her as little more than a juvenile. Insecure and anguished, Vee completes her application for Nerve, an online sensation which sees thrill seekers compete for cash and prizes, often with dire consequences.

I found it difficult to invest in Vee's character, she didn't feel genuine and as the game of Nerve progressed, she was conquered by greed and allowed herself to be manipulated. The romance was chaotic. Vee was interested in best friend Sydney's leading man but it soon becomes apparent that he has feelings for Sydney so naturally Vee believes that Sydney has betrayed her. Fellow stagehand Tommy is interested in Vee, but Vee then turns her attention to her Nerve game partner Ian, who's attractive but without substance. 

The enticement of Nerve is the game itself.

Contestants being pursed by a faceless organisation to entice them with lavish prizes and the lure of becoming minor celebrities. The more popular participants become, their lives belong to the faceless organisers. I'm still not entirely sure why the game existed. Profit from paid Watcher subscriptions? To humiliate and manipulate participants? Monetary gain from sponsorships? Who are they? Apart from two game hosts in the final rounds, the reader never learns who the Nerve organisers are, how the game begun or how they are not held responsible for what can be seen as torture entertainment of teens. The prologue is confusing, it mentions a young woman named Abigail, who is a former contestant on Nerve but plays no part within the storyline and the open ending posed more questions than answers.

Although entertaining, Nerve felt incomplete, lacked character development and world building. The overall storyline was wildly captivating but sadly a little too ambitious for so few pages.

Empire of Storms

Contains spoilers for previous books in the Throne of Glass series

Empire of Storms
Throne of Glass Book Five
Written by Sarah J Maas
Fantasy, Romance
Published September 2016
704 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

With her heart sworn to the warrior prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin Galathynius is waging a war against the dark forces of Morath, where Aelin is now a princess of Terrasen, her title of Queen devoid as the kingdoms of Erilea renounce the young Queen as heir, unless she is able to determine her worth.

And Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, knew the time would soon come to prove just how much she'd bleed for Erilea.

Manon Blackbeak has been summoned by Perrington, the demon lord who is determined to regain the city of Rifthold where Iskra Yellowlegs will command the Ferian legion. Dorian Havilliard, the King of Adarlan, is unable to defend his Kingdom against the onslaught of iron clawed witches, fleeing his city to find the young Fire Queen while one of Manon's Thirteen will be sentenced to death in order to preserve the Wing Leader's secret.

Elide Lochan is fleeing towards freedom after being liberated by Manon and the Thirteen. Ordered to head North to deliver a message to Celaena Sardothien, and determined to find the Queen of Terrasen, Aelin Galathynius. Branded a thief and murderer, Elide is being hunted to be brought to the King for justice.

Lorcan is pursuing the young woman through the forest, limping and fleeing. Promising to protect Elide, the Fae warrior seeks to end Aelin, deceived by the Wyrdkey the young Queen still carries.

While Erilea lies in devastation, Aelin will need to all upon her allies and foes alike to recapture her country. A promise of a future bereaved of borders, of suffering and a Kingdom she will command once more.

My Thoughts

In her much anticipated fifth installment in her Throne of Glass series, Sarah J Maas has woven an immense storyline that will consume readers until the final page. Sultry and fierce, Empire of Storms was magnificent but it could have been extraordinary.

Aelin is tenacious, decisive and a fierce competitor. Throughout the series, she's grown into a leader among men while still maintaining a sense of humility. Her journey has been remarkable and her character forged by those who aspire for freedom. Aelin will need to call upon her allies against the dark forces that oppress her Kingdom while deprived of her title as Queen. While in previous installments I enjoyed the dynamic between Aelin and the Fae warrior Rowan, in Empire of Storms, Rowan was dispensable. He contributed scarcely throughout the storyline, discounting the sexual tension.

Elide is a character who I find intriguing and absolutely delightful. Having escaped imprisonment and aided by Manon, with only her senses and a token from the depths of Rifthold, Elide is determined to return home to Terrasen to assist her Queen. While being hunted, Elide and Lorcan form a partnership. Lorcan, Maeve's blood sworn Fae warrior has been deceived by Aelin but along their journey he begins to care for Elide. Although I wasn't an advocate for Lorcan previously, I enjoyed the tentative bond between he and Elide. She's intelligent, kind and thoughtful, while Lorcan is fiercely faithful and begins to understand Elide's harrowing journey that has forged the young woman she is today. I admired how their relationship was based on a mutual appreciation and although both characters are a complete contrast of one another, it felt authentic and I adore Elide for her courage and compassion.

Dorian is destitute. His Kingdom of Rifthold left devastated and in ruins, forcing the young King to retreat. Lysandra and Aedion have established a connection and while I adore Lysandra and her moxie, Aedion is incredibly tedious.

Manon is incandescent. My goodness how I love her character fiercely. Her character development has been magnificent and although I was hoping for a satisfying romantic interest for her narrative, she's a character that has transformed herself from cold, brutal and bordering on savage to a fierce young woman who is beginning to allow herself to experience emotion beyond the pleasure of blood lust. Her storyline utterly captivating. Manon and her Thirteen have been the salvation of Empire of Storms and I'm anticipating her own personal journey in the finale.

My affliction with Empire of Storms was the romance, primarily how it threatened to overwhelm the storyline. Each character has been allocated a potential love interest and given the circumstances, some seek solace sexually in one another. While I applaud authors who write sexually positive experiences, the scene between Aelin and Rowan felt farcical and left me longing for Chaol.

CHAOL.

The storyline foundations were absolutely brilliant, Aelin calling upon former associates and adversaries to amass against an empire of darkness and oppression. While her motives may seem narcissistic, Aelin will unite the Kingdom of Erilea. Beautifully written, Sarah J Maas wields words like weapons, intoxicating and enticing readers. I cherished Empire of Storms regardless and now eagerly await what promises to be the most anticipated finale in young adult since Mockingjay.

But you know, no pressure or anything.

Words In Deep Blue & Question Time with Cath Crowley

Words In Deep Blue
Written by Cath Crowley
Contemporary, Romance, #LoveOzYA
Published August 30th 2016
352 Pages
★★★★★
This is a love story.

It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words.

It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.

Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She's looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.
It's been three long years since Rachel had left Gracetown, with an inked farewell left within the pages of the Letter Library at Howling Books, where you'll find Henry lying within the self help guides and pondering the greater meaning of life. Within the isles, over two decades of history lies in the margins of books. Friends, lovers and strangers find kindred spirits and understanding. Although Henry will never understand why Rachel hadn't said goodbye.

Losing her brother to the ocean they had both so dearly loved, Rachel was desperate to escape the reminder of her grief and return to the city, where both Rachel and her brother we raised, Howling Books their second home. Living with her childless Aunt, Rachel plans on making a fresh start which doesn't include forgiving Henry who had broken her heart. Difficult seeing her only job prospects include cleaning toilets or cataloging for Howling Books, working side by side with Henry.

The Letter Library is a place for former loves, young love and lost love to reunite between the margins, but as the business begins to lose considerable amounts of money both Rachel and Henry may realise that love isn't always enough.

My Thoughts

Words in Deep Blue was a beautiful and incredibly charming read of the exploration of love and its many facets. Rachel is grieving, her brother drowned eight months prior to her return and unable to face the sound of lapping waves from the home she shares with both her mother and grandmother. She still carries the anguish of her last goodbye, having fallen in love with her best friend Henry, penning a confession left in the Letter Library that was never answered. Rachel is a wonderful character who is deeply mourning for her loss. She still carries the hurt of her unanswered declaration of love for Henry, but is adamant she's no longer in love with her childhood friend. 

Henry has spent the last three years in a tumultuous relationship with Amy, a narcissistic girl who cares little for anyone but herself. Henry is an incredibly passionate reader, intelligent and charming but allows himself to be manipulated, now his relationship has just ended for the umteenth time. As the Rachel and Henry begin to rekindle their friendship, the storyline shifts to include bookstore regulars such as elderly Frederick who is searching for a specific Walcott edition, Martin who is a casual employee tasked with cataloguing stock and George, Henry's younger sister who's mistrust and discontent as a result of being bullied for her unique sense of style and reading.

Words In Deep Blue is a legacy for lovers of the written word. For readers who find themselves within ink pages breathing in the scent of romance. The Letter Library was captivating. A destination for those wanting to share their thoughts and affections within the margins and none more so than Henry's sister George, who uses the Letter Library as an avenue to express herself without the fear of condemnation.
Martin
Fuck off and stop writing to me.
George.

Dear George
I'm not fucking off. I'm your friend. Friends don't fuck off. And by the way, friends don't tell each other to fuck off, either.
Martin

Martin
Fuck. Off.
George
Howling Books provides a safe environment where judgements are cast aside for the love of words. But like so many of our independent bookstores, Howling Books relies on the patronage of locals and the bookstore is on the verge of becoming financially unviable. An incredibly important message for readers to support their local bookstores. Not only are a third of bookstores in Australia independently owned, but Australia also had the largest number of independent small business bookstores in the English speaking world and although fictional, Howling Books represents the need for local patronage to support small business, local publishers, authors and our industry.

It was achingly beautiful and incredibly emotional. Cath Crowley is Australia's premier young adult author, creating realistic characters and an engaging storyline that will hold dear for generations to come.

Question Time with Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue takes place within Howling Books, a quaint little bookstore with a rich history of bringing strangers, friends and lovers together. Do you remember your first bookshop experience and what impact, if any, that has had on you as an author?

This is a great question. I have a strong memory of buying one book every week with my pocket money, reading it that night, and then being desperate for the next Friday to arrive so I could buy the next one in the series. I can’t remember the name of the bookstore, but I remember that feeling of excitement. I also remember the first time I walked into The Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. It’s a gorgeous store, with a spectacular range.

With so many readers turning to the convenience of electronic books, how important is it for readers to support their local bookstores?

I think it’s hugely important to support your local bookstore. I don’t want to imagine world without physical bookshops. I love walking into The Sun Bookshop, choosing books they’ve recommended (the staff picks are always brilliant). I love them as a reader, but also as a writer. My book gets bought because people hand sell them. Local bookstores are hubs of stories. We need more of them.

The Letter Library is a beautiful declaration of romance throughout the storyline, combining the scent of inked pages and the lost artistry of letter writing. What was your inspiration behind the concept?

I keep trying to remember the moment when I came up with the idea for the Letter Library. I knew I wanted the book to be about the things we find in books, about the messages we leave for strangers, and the parts of ourselves that we leave behind. I love the idea that some things are left and found by chance, but I knew I needed a more practical way for people to exchange letters. Once the idea came to me, I loved the idea that a shop would set aside books to be loved.

If you could write your own message for a stranger to find in the Letter Library, what would be your legacy?

I’ve left a lot of letters in books around the city – I’ve left poems and small notes, and longer letters for people to find. All of them, in some way, hold in them a love for words. Like Henry says, I love books down to the full stops because they change people. They make life less hard, more beautiful, they connect people. They force us to question the future, and interrogate ourselves. I’m not sure I’ll have a legacy, but I’d like that to be what people get from Words in Deep Blue.

About Cath

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People's Literature, and was named an honour book in the Children's Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath writes and teaches in Melbourne. Her new book will be published in 2016.

You can find Cath by visiting her Website  Twitter  Goodreads  Facebook and on Instagram

Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire
The Worldwalker Trilogy Book One
Written by Josephine Angelini
Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic
Published September 1st 2014
384 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted... Which is why she is determined to enjoy her first, and perhaps only high school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem, one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of all the Crucibles is Lillian... Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the savior of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?
Lily has never felt quite herself. Since developing life threatening allergies, Lily understands that she'll never experience life without abandon. Caring for her mother who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Lily experiences moments of elevated body temperature in a rare disorder that still remains undiagnosed. When an incident leaves Lily heartbroken, she fears the whispers may be a manifestation of schizophrenia and following in her mother's footsteps. But the whispers aren't a figment of her imagination as she wakes in Salem, summoned by the Lady of Salem despite her feeble health and spirit.

In her own world, Lily is a frail and pallid girl but now Lily is tenacious and capable, although desperate to return to her mother. Lily has been brought to this world by the Lady of Salem, Lillian is more than her namesake, she's conquered towns, villages and governs Salem with malice and cruelty and expects Lily to carry on her legacy.

In a world fuelled by Lillian, Lily joins forces with Rowan, Lillian's former Mechanic and the love who once shared her bed. Rowan is out for revenge and reluctantly offers to cultivate Lily's power and avenge the deaths of his community, the Outlanders who are at the mercy of Lillian's genocide.

My Thoughts

Trial By Fire was a wonderful blend of fantasy with the element of atmospheric interdimensional travel, driven by an intense romance and the plight of one girl to save a world that is not her own. Lily was a sickly child, often hospitalised with severe allergies and a constant fever in which she was ostracised by her peers. All except Tristan. For Lily, their friendship consists of watching Tristan's female conquests while seeing her peers enjoy the life Lily so desperately covets. Until the parameters of their friendship begin to change and will leave Lily grief stricken.

Tristan was little more than a pretentious womaniser while his friendship with Lily felt dubious and unrealistic. Lily may not have shared the quintessential teen experience but she wasn't afraid to stand up for herself and refused to allow Tristan to hurt her again.

Lily's heartbreak is palpable as Lillian summons the teen to her realm in an archival Salem, a world where the brutal monarch decrees the Thirteen Cities whilst looking for an heir to her empire. In Lillian's world, Lily is no longer a delicate girl, but infused with a power to rival her namesake. Leaving behind her sister and ailing mother, Lily is desperate to return home believing Lillian's world is merely a hallucination. She's frightened but refused to accept the gravity of the situation until she stumbles across Rowan.

Rowan exudes power. Lillian's former mechanic feels an attraction to Lily as he watches her stumble through the city streets, believing she is his Lillian. With animosity flowing through his veins, it soon becomes apparent that Lily is her own and not the Monarch that had sent his father to death. Rowan is the only character who is not apparent in both worlds, he is an original and perhaps why both Lillian and Lily are drawn to his prowess.

Rowan is a Native American who's Outlander community faces decimation, both from the engineered monsters known as the Woven and Lillian's genocide. Lily is no ordinary girl, she's a Witch yet to realise her own destiny and the reason why Lillian summoned her to her barren world. With Rowan's guidance, Lily begins to discover her artistry and emerges as a potential source to confront Lillian and end her reign over the Thirteen Cities. The chemistry between Rowan and Lily smoulders but learning his history with Lillian, the romance felt as though Lily was merely a substitute for the Lillian Rowan had once fallen in love with. Lily struggles with her feelings for Rowan, still in love with Tristan believing her feelings for her former best friend being unrequited. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the romance was awkward and dubious at best.

The world building was incredibly vivid, I loved the landscape of Lillian's world and the comparisons between both dimensions of Salem. I enjoyed Lily's character development from a sickly and bland girl who most likely would have been an isolated adult driven by the responsibility of caring for her mentally ill mother, to the strong and determined young woman who was torn between her family and becoming the conductor who was entrusted to contend with the ever increasing hostile Lillian.

Josephine Angelini is a wonderful storyteller who is able to immerse and engage readers. Although the romance was loathsome at times, Lily's character development and the vivid world building will leave readers enthralled until the final page. One of the few traditional paranormal romances I've thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.

Holding Up The Universe

Holding Up The Universe
Written by Jennifer Niven
Contemporary, Social Issues
Expected Publication October 4th 2016
368 Pages
★★★★☆
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed America's Fattest Teen. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready. For high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret. He can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can reengineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool. Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.
Tomorrow is Libby Strout's first day of school since the fifth grade and she plans on dancing her way into the new life she desperately deserves. Once labelled as America's Fattest Teen, Libby has spent the last three years surviving after needing to be rescued from her home, filmed as a spectacle for the American public. After her mother passed away suddenly, Libby turned to eating to fill the gnawing loss in her life. Libby is determined to live her life beyond her bedroom walls and after choosing to take control of her health, will make the most of her opportunity at Martin Van Buren High School.

Jack Masselin is the handsome, popular ladies man. He's currently single but will no doubt rekindle his treacherous relationship with the fickle Caroline, because that's what is expected of him. But living his life as a stereotype is taking it's toll on Jack. He has undiagnosed Prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder of face perception where he lacks the ability to recognise familiar faces. In a school bountiful in stereotypes, Jack uses physical Identifiers to recognise those around him, including new girl Libby.

A cruel game of Fat Girl Rodeo will bring both Jack and Libby together in more ways than one. Both Jack and Libby will begin to understand the anguish of being an outcast, something neither need to go through alone.

My Thoughts

Holding Up The Universe was a candid and often confronting storyline of those who have been labelled and ostracised from their peers. It was beautifully written with compassion and conviction for those who aren't what society accepts as perfect, rather than to celebrate our differences.

Libby isn't an overweight girl, she's larger than life. A girl whose health had declined after the death of her mother at the tender age of eleven. She lived a meagre existence by being restricted to the confines of her bedroom, home schooled due to her weight gain and relying on imaginary friendships with the neighbourhood children. Until a health scare sees Libby labelled as America's Fattest Teen and made into a spectacle. Now three years later, Libby has taken control of her health and is determined to enjoy the adolescent experience. Attending school. Meeting new friends. Even falling in love.

Libby Strout is a force to be reckoned with. She's still considered overweight by her peers but she's healthy, she's happy and taken control of her life again. Most importantly, Libby won't allow others to diminish her self confidence, especially not Jack.

Jack is living the ultimate adolescent experience. Although popular and attractive, Jack's life is a facade. Behind the charismatic personality lies a condition in which Jack has self diagnosed a cognitive disorder, where he lacks the ability to recognise familiar faces. Prosopagnosia is a debilitating condition, where sufferers use Identifiers to recognise family and friends such as sounds, physical cues and body shape. So naturally he identifies Libby as the large girl.

Jack can see Libby. He can see her impeccably long eyelashes, her warm, welcoming smile and soon he begins to see Libby beyond her weight. Although I enjoyed the tentative friendship Jack and Libby shared, I was conflicted when it came to the degrading incident that had brought the two together. Jack appeared to be little more than a coward who gave into the cruel game to protect his own reputation. There is absolutely no excuse for cruelty towards others or degradation and I can't imagine that in a non fictional circumstance, the lovely Libby would have been so forgiving.

Most readers will struggle with Jack's character, which I assume is exactly as intended. Jack represents teen pressure and the need to be accepted by our peers. He isn't a malicious person but may be painted as the villain especially for those who have faced the same torment, projecting their own teen oppressors onto that of Jack. Even as an adult, most women still suffer from insecurities and we carry the scars of our teen years that weren't particularly kind. But Jack's character seeks redemption, not willing to excuse his behaviour on his condition but to seek an understanding and acceptance of our differences. Jack isn't perfect and I applaud Jennifer Niven for creating a flawed character among young adult literature which tends to focus on the pursuit of perfection.

Libby is magnificent. I loved her character fiercely for her tenacity and moxie, for her dancing without abandon and her ability to stand up for the injustice in our world, although she's defiant not to become a poster child for fat girls. Although Libby was vulnerable to ridicule, her confidence was inspiring and may empower teens and promote greater self confidence despite our inhibitions and critical natures.

Jennifer Niven is a wonderfully accomplished author, able to invoke emotional responses in readers through realistically flawed characters. Although subjective, Libby's story is not uncommon sadly. Society places a great emphasis on the female body image and often we ourselves are our greatest critics and tend to equate happiness within ourselves with how we are perceived by others.
Life is too short to judge others. It is not our job to tell someone what they feel or who they are. Why not spend some time on yourself instead?
No truer words have been spoken.

The #LoveOzYA Hippity Hop


I love Australian young adult fiction. I love that it's relevant, it's realistic and Australian authors write with confidence and conviction. We're not afraid of an invasion because John Marsden taught us how to survive, Melina Marchetta welcomed us into her loud and loving Italian Australian family and Bryce Courtney showed us that there's a little bit of Peekay in us all.

But in the last few years, a new breed of Aussie young adult author has emerged. The author who empowers women, the author who is environmentally conscious and the author who isn't afraid to call us out on social injustice. Aussie young adult authors are no bullshit, kick ass advocates for what makes Australia unique. Our people.

Favourite Aussie YA authors

Spark Series
My Review
The Every Series
My Review
One Would Think The Deep
My Review

The Aussie YA book you grew up with

The Tomorrow Series
My Review
Blueback
My Review
Looking For Alibrandi
My Review

Favourite Aussie YA book released in 2016

Black
My Review

Frankie
My Review
Breathing Under Water
My Review

Aussie YA Debut you are looking forward to

Shield
Add to Goodreads
Our Chemical Hearts
Add to Goodreads
The Book of Whispers
Add to Goodreads

Favourite Aussie YA series


Chasing The Valley
My Review

Boarderlands
My Review

Skyfire
My Review

Unexpected Aussie YA surprise

Bro
My Review
YTKOGIWSA
My Review
Lullaby
My Review

Aussie YA Book you always recommend to others

Summer Skin
My Review
Shadows
My Review
Burn Bright
My Review

An Aussie YA book on your TBR

Gemina
Add to Goodreads
A Corner Of White
Add to Goodreads
Finnikin of the Rock
Add to Goodreads

Join the blog hop

Thanks to our hosts the #AusYABloggers and Jeann, Emily, Genie, Joy and Aimee.
Join our Twitter chat on Sunday 14th August at 6:00pm using the hashtag #AusYABlogChat.
Check out Happy Indulgence to follow the blog hop.

Need more #LoveOzYA recommendations?

Check out my Instagram account at Diva Booknerd

Breathing Under Water

Breathing Under Water
Written by Sophie Hardcastle
Conteporary, Coming of Age, #LoveOzYA
Published July 12th 2016
320 Pages
Thanks to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Nineteen minutes and eleven seconds separated us at birth. On the official documentation, he is older... Although it really has nothing to do with age. What it really means is that I am, and have always been, second.

Ben and Grace Walker are twins. Growing up in a sleepy coastal town it was inevitable they'd surf. Always close, they hung out more than most brothers and sisters, surfing together for hours as the sun melted into the sea. At seventeen, Ben is a rising surf star, the golden son and the boy all the girls fall in love with. Beside him, Grace feels like she is a mere reflection of his light. In their last year of school, the world beckons, full of possibility. For Grace, finishing exams and kissing Harley Matthews is just the beginning.

Then, one day, the unthinkable. The sun sets at noon and suddenly everything that was safe and predictable is lost. And everything unravels.
For Ben and Grace, the water has always been their first love and secondly, the bond the twins share with one another. Both born to the waves in the sleepy seaside town, it's Ben who shines brightly with Grace basking in the sunshine of her brother's achievements, a free spirit who is upheld by the community, his peers and Grace and Ben's parents.

Until her world falls apart.

Grace finds herself in a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse, numbing the darkness that threatens to overwhelm her now meager existence. The waves no longer call to her, the sunshine no longer warms her skin and for Grace Walker, it's easier to sink than swim.

My Thoughts

Breathing Under Water was immaculate. An emotional journey of teen grief, familial despair and those left behind. Grace has always lived within twin Ben's shadow, content in the role of Ben's sister, while Ben is on the verge of a professional surfing career. Ben and Grace share a tender and loving sibling connection and although Ben is popular and free spirited, he ensures Grace is never left behind. But the time has come for Grace to forge her own path into the world and when Harley Matthews returns to town, this may be the opportunity Grace needs to begin her life in the sunshine, rather than being protected by Ben's shadow.

But before Grace's life can begin, tragedy strikes and threatens to tear her family apart.

The aftermath of bereavement and loss is always confronting, especially within young adult reads as characters are often still forging their own paths in life. My heart ached for the Walker family. While Grace's mother becomes a shadow of her former self, her father throws himself into his work to avoid spending time with his family. Harley begins to isolate himself from Grace, leaving Grace to rely on emotionally absent parents, the ever growing divide between herself and best friend Mia and Jake, Ben's best friend who is content to ride a downward spiral into alcohol and drug abuse, taking Grace along for the ride.

I found Grace's method of coping confronting, but entirely realistic. She's enabled by Jake who is content to drown his sorrows in a cocktail of alcohol and recreational drugs. She feels that no one other than Jake understands the sorrow in her life and cannot see past her own grief as she spirals out of control. As the Walker family unit begins to break down, it's Grace's best friend Mia who is isolated, abused by Grace herself when lashing out all whilst dealing with a drunken sexual assault in which her perpetrator was never held to account. It also highlighted how females who have been sexually assaulted or victims of rape, fail to report the assault to the authorities. I had hoped the friends in Mia's life would have addressed the issue, beyond Ben defending her honour with a show of male dominance. Seeing Mia's light extinguished, her once vibrant persona now withdrawn and I desperately wanted justice for her.

Set within a quintessential Australian coastal town, Sophie Hardcastle weaves a beautifully poignant story of loss, losing your way and how tragedy threatens to drown those left behind. The writing was delicate and lyrical, captivating from the very first page. Sophie Hardcastle is a phenomenal author who will no doubt become an Australian favourite with teens for many generations to come. 
Gazing at the splinters of a life once lived, I finally come to see life for all that it is. We breathe, for a while, and then we come to rest. We become the earth, the clouds and the deep sea currents, the summer swells and the winter tides.
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