Woo Feminism... Remix by Non Pratt

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Remix
Written by Non Pratt
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published in Australia August 1st 2015
304 Pages
RATING ★★★
From the author of Trouble comes a new novel about boys, bands and best mates.

Kaz is still reeling from being dumped by the love of her life... Ruby is bored of hearing about it. Time to change the record.

Three days. Two best mates. One music festival. Zero chance of everything working out.
Best friends Karizma and Ruby are embarking on an epic adventure of boys, bands and learning the value of female friendship. Both Kaz and Ruby are newly single, with Kaz and former boyfriend Tom having called it quits only a month prior. He declared that their relationship was little more than a friendship, while Kaz was left utterly heartbroken and still pining for the lad they call Rugby Tom, the kind of boy you take home to meet your parents. Ruby is the wild girl who caught her boyfriend in the embrace of another and didn't hesitate to walk away. She refuses to think about Stu and declares the Remix Festival weekend a chance to both start again. Best friends, boys and rocking bands to cure a heartache is in order.

One sleazy rock star, two former boyfriends, one moment of regrettable sex and a new girlfriend you're expected to babysit later, Kaz and Ruby will have lived a weekend to remember. Old flames rekindled, new loves discovered, finding yourself and realising that life isn't defined by your past mistakes.

MY THOUGHTS

Remix was an entertaining read that not only shows the turmoil of friendship, but how we are all irrevocably flawed. But rather than take issue with how we make mistakes, often over and over, it celebrates our differences and how we grow from our misdemeanors. Kaz and Ruby may be best friends, but the two girls couldn't be more different. While Kaz is quiet and pines for former boyfriend Tom, Ruby is a wild child who isn't afraid to put herself back on the market. Or is she? The musical festival plays a very small part of the storyline, but focuses on the lives of a small group of friends, the girls, Ruby's brother and his boyfriend and the relationships they form. One of the biggest flaws I find in young adult, is the unrealistic portrayal of teen relationships, and while not all teens are sexually active, many are and Remix showcases teens who are perhaps not ready to deal with the maturity that comes along with adult relationships.

It also touches on issues such as cheating and the moral dilemma between suspecting someone isn't single, and having it confirmed he or she is attached. Kaz is single, and refuses to believe that former boyfriend Tom has already moved on, so she doesn't ask and it makes for an incredibly uncomfortable situation. Although morally Kaz should feel ashamed, she isn't the one who should be feeling guilty. It's a fine line that will divide readers and raise discussion about loyalty. Although Remix is sex positive with Kaz's mother promoting sexual health, I think the sexual situations the girls both found themselves in was anything but positive. The experience of regretful sex in both cases adds to their journey of growth, showing yet again how flawed we all are.

Thank goodness Kaz meets Sebastian. He's absolutely lovely and just what the storyline needed. A positive beginning of what could possibly be a new relationship.

THE VERDICT

The emotion of it's characters, their flaws and how we learn from our mistakes is what makes Remix so emotionally raw and realistic. It's the passion and lives beyond the music that makes Remix compelling, the lines that are crossed, the chances taken. It's teen life at it's worse... And best.

NON PRATT SHARES... HOW BEING A FEMINIST AFFECTS MY WRITING
Feminism is having a moment. Or at least, it feels like that since I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman and realised that I was a feminist. It’s a lot like Neo in The Matrix choosing the red pill over the blue. Once you’re in, you don’t just see feminism everywhere, you see the need for it: the disparity in pay, in treatment, in success; the lack of female roles in films, female names on prize lists, female politicians in parliament.

Men and women are treated differently when they should be treated as equals. It’s a simple principle, but as is often the case with the simplest concepts, people have a hard time agreeing on how to action it. At times it feels as if feminism spends more time looking to itself than looking to the society it wants to change.

YA, written by women (and men) who often place teen girls at the heart of the story, is already a fertile ground for feminist sensibilities. As one of these authors, I’m throwing my own voice into the chorus and I don’t mind if we’re not all singing from exactly the same hymn sheet. (I’m not here to tell other people how to be feminist. It’s enough that you are one.) But, for the record, here’s the one I sing from:

My female characters can save themselves / other girls / boys.
My female characters can be saved by boys… but they probably won’t be.)
If I have girls tearing each other down, I will also have them building each other up.
If my female characters consent to sex it is because they think they will enjoy it. (Although that doesn’t always mean they do…)
If a character is going to cast aspersions on girls for having casual sex, another character will cast aspersions on boys who do the same.
If I write what seems like a gender stereotype, it will be a decision, not a default. Fathers can be competent around the house and mothers in the workplace. Some school girls can be good at maths, some school boys at art. No activity is off limits because of gender alone.
I will think of every character as a person before I think of them as anything else.
I’m an optimist, a big believer in writing the world as a hybrid of the way it is and the way you want it to be. Eventually, one will become the other.
ABOUT NON
Non Pratt grew up in Teesside and now lives in London. After graduating from Trinity College Cambridge, Non decided to work in children's publishing. Since then she has worked at Usborne as a non fiction editor and fiction publisher at Catnip. She now writes full time

Her Website     Twitter     Goodreads     Tumblr
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Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

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Where The Stars Still Shine
Written by Trish Doller
Contemporary, Romance
Published August 1st 2015
368 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★★
Stolen as a child from a large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has no idea what normal life might be like. She's never had a home or gone to school, and she gets most of her meals from vending machines.

Then Callie's mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie's real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life in small town Florida. Now she must find a way to leave the past behind and learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love, even with someone who seems an improbable choice, is more than just a possibility.

This searing story of love and betrayal will resonate with readers who want stories that are gritty and utterly true.
Callie's life has been a series of ramshackle houses, a few belongings thrown into an old suitcase and life on the run with her mother. She barely remembers leaving her life in Florida more than ten years ago, her mother claiming her father never loved her as a child and only wanted her in his life to spite her mother. But Callie is about to realise the life she's been living for the last ten years is a lie. As her mother faces a prison sentence, now seventeen year old Callie is returned to the small Florida seaside town, to a big family who have mourned her absence. 

The years on the run have left Callie untrusting and she isn't ready to become someone elses daughter, no matter how much she's been missed. But her father isn't the unloving parent Callie's mother painted him as and all he wants is his daughter to feel safe a loved, a concept foreign to life with her mother in which she was left unprotected. Callie now has a place to call home and a chance at a normal life. With friends, family and finds herself falling for the local diver and tour guide in Alex.

But when her mother is paroled, Callie will be left with the ultimate decision, whether to return to life on the run or stay with the family that was so cruelly ripped from her.

MY THOUGHTS

The one thing I've noticed about Trish Doller's writing style, is that she can capture your attention within a few pages and holds you captive until you turn that final page. Callie has lived her life out of a suitcase, often taking off in the middle of the night at the insistence of her mother. Over ten years ago, Callie was stolen from her father, a man her mother claims only ever wanted her daughter to spite her. With no regard for Callie's safety, she brings home a multitude of men to entertain, one now being the cause of Callie's night terrors. Feeding herself from vending machines, having never been to high school, Callie has taught herself from old textbooks often while fleeing from town to town. It isn't until her mother is pulled over for a routine traffic check, that Callie is plucked from the side of the road and moved back to the lazy seaside town in Florida with her legal guardian, her father. Her father has since remarried, has had two boys of his own and is but one of a large Greek family, all who have been missing her terribly since she was taken.

Reminding me a little of My Big Fat Greek Wedding in parts, I loved Callie's big, loud, extended family. They accepted her into the fold, flaws and all. Her cousin and newly appointed best friend Kat has big pans for Callie, including setting her up with a nice guy to double date. But it's local womanising diver Alex that has caught Callie's eye. Alex is lovely, not at all what the rumours from cousin Kat has painted him by and is as attracted to Callie as she is to him. But Alex is a troubled young man and before Callie realises, she'll be mixed up in his troubles with his family. Driving a wedge between them.

THE VERDICT

Trish Doller is a remarkable author, creating engaging and entertaining storylines that readers can resonate with. Like The Devil You Know, you'll find yourself reading long into the night. Her characters are incredibly vivid, flawed, yet likable and most importantly relatable. Trish is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors and looking forward to seeing what she is working on next.

Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking Interview Review

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Contains spoilers for Frostfire and Ice Kissed
Crystal Kingdom Kanin Chronicles Book Three
Written by Amanda Hocking
See my review for Frostfire
See my review for Ice Kissed
Fantasy, Romance
Published August 1st 2015
300 Pages
RATING ★★★
Cast out by her kingdom and far from home, she's the Kanin people's only hope.

Bryn Aven, unjustly charged with murder and treason, is on the run. The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have taken over her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him?

As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light… And now the entire troll world is on the brink of war. Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holmes and the Trylle kingdom? One thing is certain, an epic battle is underway, and when it’s complete, nothing will ever be the same…
The Kanin empire is on the verge of destruction as an oppression settles over the wintery landscape. Bryn has been accused of murder, now on the run and leaving her friends and family behind, including Ridley who is now being tortured in her absence. Disgraced and with no where to turn, her only support will come in the form of Konstantin, a former Kanin guard who has been exiled and working with Viktor Dalig, a rogue enemy of the empire. Hoping to gather support from neighbouring tribes is proving fruitless, until the Kanin Queen declares war against the Skojare kingdom, claiming Viktor Dalig was framed by both Bryn and Konstantin. Queen Mina is bloodthirsty and ruthless, her reign of oppression and greed will only come to an end with her execution. But first Bryn must make it to the palace alive.

Bryn must rally her allies, including Konstantin who she's reluctant to trust, especially after his attempt on her father's life. War is being brought to their doorstep with friends enlisted to fight an enemy under false pretenses. This war isn't about clearing her name, but fighting for the Kanin freedom against a woman who plans to take it all.

MY THOUGHTS

Crystal Kingdom was a worthy and brilliant series end. Amanda Hocking transports us back to the wintery kingdom of the Kanin trolls and the tyrannical rule of Queen Mina, this time Bryn is on the run and accused of murder, a crime that fellow fugitive Konstantin knows all too well. Even though she is missing Ridley, her parents and friends, Bryn remains a tower of strength. She has nowhere to go and to avoid capture, she realises that it will take drastic measures to clear her name, but knows she'll never be able to return home. Konstantin is now an ally, the dark knight now turning on the rogue Viktor Dalig to seek revenge, revealing his sordid past with Queen Mina herself. I assumed their newly formed and tentative friendship could have been mistaken for a romantic storyline, thankfully Bryn is a character who doesn't easily fall for potential love interests and her thoughts remain almost entirely with Ridley. I loved Konstantin's character. Where in Frostfire and Ice Kissed, he was evasive and played the sinister role of the villain, in Crystal Kingdom this isn't the case. We learn more about who Konstantin is beyond his crimes, and the softer, vulnerable side which will no doubt endear readers to his cause.

Once again, the character driven world building is lovely. From the icy conditions of the Kanin, to the watery kingdom of the Skojare. It's described so vividly, so lovingly that it immerses the reader into Kanin realm, allowing you to fully engage with the storyline. This series has been lovely, but I hadn't realised how emotionally invested I was until the final few pages when a few tears escaped.

THE VERDICT

Amanda Hocking's vivid and immersive storytelling are incredible, creating a rich, vibrant and wildly popular series. She sets realistic and relatable characters into fantasy worlds that has crafted an incredibly intense and emotionally charged finale that will surprise, enthrall and delight until the final page.

INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA HOCKING

Your current series, Kanin Chronicles is set to release the third and final installment Crystal Kingdom. For those who have yet to pick up the series, what is the biggest misconception about the trolls you've come across in regards to both the Kanin Chronicles and Trylle series?
That trolls are short, ugly, and hide under bridges. That’s actually a very recent concept. For a long time, folklore painted trolls much differently. In many places in Europe, trolls are regarded much differently. Many are giants, and some have magical abilities.
Your publishing story is remarkable. From successful self published author having sold over a million Kindle books, and with no formal training as a writer. I've read that you were a self made millionaire even before signing your first publishing contract. Do you remember the moment you decided to become an author... And can I borrow ten dollars?
I don’t actually ever remember not wanting to be an author. Ever since I was really little, like two or three, I loved telling stories, and as soon as I learned how to write, I was writing stories. It was just something that I always I wanted to do.
With what you know now as adult Amanda, what important piece of advice would you give to sixteen year old Amanda?
Not to worry so much about what other people think. Most of the time, people aren’t actually thinking about you even, so do what want, have fun, and stop taking everything so seriously.
I love sassy and strong heroines and especially within the Kanin Chronicles and Trylle series, you've created them in abundance. What message would you want to instill in your female teen readers through those strong female characters?
That you shouldn’t let anybody convince you that you’re not strong or capable, just because you’re a girl. Don’t let anybody deter you from being who you really want to be.
As a former self published author, in the early days you were embraced by the book blogging community. Now that you're traditionally published, do you miss that more personable interaction with bloggers and readers?
I do still interact with bloggers and readers, but I did have to take a step back because I was getting overwhelmed. I have a lot of anxiety issues, including pretty bad social anxiety, and while online socializing is easier for me, it can still get very taxing, even though I really do enjoy interacting with readers. I start getting paranoid and exhausted, and I have to remind myself to spread it out and take a break from online when I need to.
When you're not writing, what can we find Amanda doing in her spare time?
I spend most of my free time reading, watching bad movies, playing video games, and hanging out with my friends, family, and my pets. I have three cats and a Golden Retriever, and they keep me pretty busy.
With the Kanin Chronicles coming to an end, what can we expect next from Amanda Hocking and are you currently working on anything you can share with us?
My next novel is a standalone paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a travelling sideshow called Freeks. I pitched it as Pretty in Pink meets The Lost Boys (minus the vampires). It should be out sometime in 2016 with my publisher.
And lastly and most importantly, if you could only save one... Konstantin or Ridley?
That’s an impossible choice. I always want to save all my characters, even when the story doesn’t allow it...
ABOUT AMANDA
Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Her New York Times best selling series the Trylle Trilogy has been optioned for films. She has published fifteen novels, including the Hollows and the Watersong series. Frostfire and Ice Kissed, the first two books in her newest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles are out now, and the final book Crystal Kingdom will be out August 4th 2015.

Follow the tour by heading to the next tour stop for a review of Crystal Kingdom and Giveaway

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Written by Patrick Ness
Fantasy, Contemporary
Expected Publication August 27th 2015
352 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
What if you aren't the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.
Seventeen year old Mikey isn't the hero who saves the world. He isn't expected to. Mikey is one of the Others, the bystanders within his strange little town where where the supernatural reign and the world rests upon the shoulders of the Chosen Ones. But his life is complicated enough as it is. His mother is a State Senator, neglecting her family for that of the community she serves. His father an alcoholic, his sister a reformed anorexic and Mikey himself suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, finding himself stuck in loops in which is becoming increasingly harder to break. He's in love with childhood friend Henna, although too scared to tell her and his best friend is a gay, Jewish God of Cats, his feline admirers following him about town.

The latest crisis to hit the teen community comes in the form of the hipster kids being killed, pillars of light and glowing blue eyes in the night. But akin to the vampire plague that swept through years earlier, it's the Chosen Ones that need to deal with the prophecy, hipster kids affectionately known as The Indies. For Mikey and his friends, they just want to graduate without the school being burnt down. A group of ordinary teens living within an extraordinary town, and this is their story.

MY THOUGHTS

Ever wondered about the secondary characters within our young adult fantasy and dystopian novels? The adults or the teens who aren't tasked with saving the world? This is their story. Mikey and his group of friends are ordinary teens who have seen it all, the paranormal descending upon their town and helpless to stop the pending apocalypse. The Chosen Ones are the kids known as The Indies, teens who segregate themselves from the school community and are named as uniquely as themselves.

But The Rest of Us Just Live Here isn't about those who save the world, it's the teens who are trying to live their life within the extraordinary town. Real teens that struggle with issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, workaholic and alcoholic parents, and having a new kid suddenly arrive within only six weeks left until graduation. The concept is completely bizarre and the storyline allows readers glimpses of the pending doom that is set to strike their town. But life goes on for the Others, those who are usually restricted to background characters while someone else saves the world.

Without a doubt, Patrick Ness is a phenomenal author and this may possibly be his best work to date. It's intelligent, quirky and still addresses real issues such as mental illness and substance abuse such as alcoholism. The cast of characters is diverse, which is what readers have come to expect from Patrick Ness. It reads as a subtle swipe at the young adult tropes that irritate what most readers take issue with, the Chosen Ones, the town that seemingly turns a blind eye to paranormal invasion, clueless adults and when you're one of the Others, how life continues on and no matter what's going on around you. Your own issues are still as important than the world coming to an end.

THE VERDICT

Beautifully imaginative, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an exploration of those who aren't meant to save the world, but the bystanders who create their own storyline. Patrick Ness is a phenomenal author, who can enchant, enthrall and entice readers to believe in the impossible. Bizarre, incredible and utterly captivating.

Adrift by Paul Griffin

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Adrift
Written by Paul Griffin
Contemporary, Survival, Thriller
Published July 29th 2015
240 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
RATING ★★★☆
Five of us went out on the water that night.
None of us came back whole, and not all of us came back.

Best friends Matt and John are spending the summer working. Matt to save money for college, John to kill time before trade school. On the beach, the beautiful Driana stops Matt in his tracks. Dri, Stef and JoJo invite the boys to a party at Dri's Hamptons mansion, and Matt drags John along.

When Stef decides it’s a beautiful night to go windsurfing, the others race out on the water to make sure she’s safe. But with no land in sight and a broken boat engine, it’s not just Stef they have to worry about. And as the hours turn into days, the prospect of rescue seems further and further away...
Matt is going places. While saving for his college education, he and best friend John work the beach during the summer months, changing tourists inflated prices for sweets and treats along the Hamptons shoreline. That's when Matt first sees the exotic Driana, rich, charismatic and along with Brazilian friends Stef and JoJo, invite the boys to the party of the summer. That's where their lives begin to unravel. When Stef decides to take the windsurfer out at midnight and finds herself in trouble, the group are forced to borrow a small boat in order to retrieve her from the water. But Stef's injuries are far worse than they'd first realised and heading back to shore to seek treatment looks unlikely when the motor splutters and fails to start. With Stef bleeding, the group are forced to wait until morning for rescue. 

Only rescue doesn't arrive.

Throughout the night, the group have drifted out to sea. With no land in sight and only each other for company, each day becomes a fight for survival. Not just for the injured Stef, but for themselves and from each other.

MY THOUGHTS

Adrift was terrifying. A psychological thriller and fight for survival. Imagine being stranded at sea, no land in sight and with strangers you had only met hours prior. That's what faces the both Matt and John, best friends who neither are strangers to violence. Dri is a Manhattan girl, but cousin Stef and her boyfriend JoJo are Brazilian nationals, enjoying the summer before it all begins to fall apart. Told from Matt's point of view who has limited medical knowledge, Dri who had basic survival skills and John, with his calm exterior that has him dubbed the Iceman. JoJo spends most of his time fawning over the heavily injured Stef, her arm torn to pieces and the limb now turning grey. It's eerie. Between the group of five, it seems inevitable that one is on the verge of snapping.

As they started to turn on one another, I found myself incredibly anxious. With a hammer and makeshift harpoon as potential weapons, the storyline has a dangerous undercurrent of unpredictability and I loved every moment. My only real issues were how the group came to be out there in the first place. An idiotic snap decision when there seemed to be no real danger at the time, yet there were no safety checks on the boat and no one, even the stoic John, showed any real common sense. Although superbly written, it lacked emotion sadly. The thriller aspect was pure perfection, but the quieter moments between the characters, especially Matt and Dri fell flat. Matt was still coming to terms with a horrific incident that he and John were involved in three years prior, but even as their story emerged, I felt emotionally disconnected to them both. I really enjoyed it. I loved the thriller aspect and survival story, but it needed a little more emotion within it's characters and their plight. It's the only difference from it being a good read into an incredible read.

THE VERDICT

Adrift was an enthralling thriller that simmers along, leaving readers anxious and defenseless. Well written and a unique tale of survival in the most desolate of conditions. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lorali by Laura Dockrill

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Lorali
Written by Laura Dockrill
Paranormal, Mermaids
Published July 2nd 2015
208 Pages
Thank you to Hot Key Books and Five Mile Press
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn't exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human.

But along with Lorali's arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory's bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong anyway?
The lazy seaside town of Hastings is known for it's quiet cobblestone streets, it's portside fishing and the dream of escaping and making more of your small town life. None more so for Rory. Reminiscing about his long gone father while an earth shattering storm rolls in, wasn't how Rory thought he'd spend his sixteenth birthday. He certainly didn't expect to find a girl, naked and alone, washed up underneath the Hastings pier. Lorali doesn't speak and her beauty is almost otherworldly, leaving Rory instinctively wanting to keep her safe.

Lorali's life as a royal mermaid had driven her to the surface, making the painful transition from mermaid to Walker. Her kingdom is in disarray, sending the well mannered and dashing Abelgare pirate brothers to return her to her rightful home and they aren't the only ones. The sea is a haven for pirates and hunters, not all with the intention of returning the princess to her kingdom. Not knowing who he can trust, Rory will protect Lorali with his life by putting himself in danger in the process.

MY THOUGHTS

I haven't had much luck with Mermaid themed young adult reads, they tend to be underwhelming and not the magical, whimsical storylines most readers are probably expecting. Not only does Lorali break that mould, but it's a much darker storyline than I'd imagined. Told from three points of view, Rory, Lorali and The Sea, it tells the story of Princess Lorali who has surfaced among humans and those who are on the hunt to capture her.

It was deliciously bizarre, the inclusion of pirates, the sirens they tame and the world between the underwater kingdom and Walkers was simplistic, yet incredibly engaging once the hunt for Lorali begins. Rory's character is the average, knockabout lad but cares deeply for his single mother who seems on the verge of falling apart. Along with best friends Flynn and Elvis, they plan on celebrating Rory's sixteenth birthday when the weather turns nasty and Lorali washes up on shore. Her transformation from mermaid to human is incredibly charming.
Lorali. I'm a bit in love. A bit in love with this weird girl wearing my clothes, stuffing butter into her mouth off a knife.
But lorali is by no means safe, and Rory is about to find out how deadly betrayal can be. As much as I enjoyed the storyline overall, I found the world building lacking. Lorali's underwater kingdom was underdeveloped and I found it hard to imagine. Seeing a point of view from The Sea was bizarre, and it felt as though it used the narrative as a way to explain the pirates and the politics of Lorali's world. Inventive, but personally I would rather have seen a point of view from the pirate Abelgare brothers, who added a dose of intrigue throughout the storyline.

THE VERDICT

Lorali is a unique storyline of mermaids, sirens and pirates within the human world. Slow to begin, but the action soon heats up as the battle is on to capture and return Lorali home... Or otherwise. With points of view from The Sea, it is a unique read and one of the more engaging mermaid themed books in young adult.

Paperweight By Meg Haston

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Contains triggers for those who have experienced, or have been touched by eating disorders.
Paperweight
Written by Meg Haston
Contemporary, Mental Illness
Published July 2nd 2015
285 Pages
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★★
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Struggling to deal with her brother's death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she's still furious about the fact that she's been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only. The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie, and don't even get her started on the other 'inmates'. All she wants is to be left alone...

But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows, even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.
Stevie finds herself at a heath retreat in the middle of nowhere, a last ditch attempt to save her life only that Stevie doesn't want to be saved. Her mother abandoned her, her father checked out emotionally and brother and best friend Josh is dead. Stevie is grieving, angry at being sent to the facility for girls with eating disorders and all in the lead up to the first anniversary of Josh's death, something the teen continues to carry the blame for. At the facility, girls are counselled and given the tools to promote a healthy lifestyle, something Stevie has no interest in. All she wants to do is escape and return home to Eden, a toxic friendship of alcoholism and deceit, someone who cares little for Stevie's well being. But to face her truth, Stevie must face the heavy weight of Josh's death and the part she believed she's played.

And realise that through the adversity of Josh's death, Stevie needs to live. For herself and to honour his memory.

MY THOUGHTS

Paperweight is an emotional, difficult and distressing read about a girl who ultimately wants to die. Stevie is bulimic, her weight loss and emotional state landing her at the health clinic with girls who know all too well what it feels like to live with an eating disorder. Her weight is the only aspect in her life that she feels in control of, carrying around the blame of her brothers tragic death in which Stevie survived the accident. The one trait Stevie has is likability, even beyond her abrasive personality and refusal to adhere to the program. But behind the eating disorder lies a troubled girl, a girl who's mother left her for a better life and Eden, a girl who played games with her by building her confidence up in the most destructive of ways.

Reading Stevie's journey was incredibly emotional and at times, distressing, as she comes to terms with the girl she was and the young woman she hopes to become. Stevie's character development was brilliant and one of my favourite aspects of Paperweight. She doesn't change due to a love interest and her growth isn't an overnight phenomenon. Stevie's only chance at recovery comes in the form of the realisation that to die, she isn't honouring Josh's memory but needs to make the most of the life Josh will now never live.

THE VERDICT

Paperweight is an incredibly moving and emotional read of one girl's struggle with addiction, self confidence and feeling worthy of living. It's not the destination, but the story of fight and survival throughout Stevie's journey that will appeal to readers of emotional and realistic fiction. Beautifully written, raw and packs a punch. Really enjoyed it.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

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The Potion Diaries Potion series Book One
Written by Amy Alward
Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Published July 2nd 2015
320 Pages
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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RATING ★★★
When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown over heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi, an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the Zoro Aster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is all over social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.
The Kemi Potion Shop is falling apart, never mind business not being as bustling as it once was. Synthetic potion makers have taken over the market, driving the little family owned business into disrepair. When Sam and her gruff grandfather are summoned to the palace, the elderly alchemist and his protege called to action to find a cure for a toxic love potion. It seems Princess Evelyn has been poisoned by her own hand, concocting a love potion for an unrequited crush but consuming the mix and falling in love with her own reflection. Her life is in danger and teams from all over Kingstown have been called to participate in The Hunt, a dangerous adventure into the Wilds to obtain the ingredients needed to create a cure. 

Along with Finder Kirsty, the odds are stacked against the duo who not only have an exiled royal turned rogue to contend with but Zain, Evelyn's own crush and heir to the Aster synthetic potion empire.

MY THOUGHTS

The Potion Diaries was a lovely mix of fantasy, adventure that reads more as a mature middle grade, than young adult series. It follows the story of Sam, apprentice alchemist who lives in the family owned potion store. The Hunt offers Sam a chance for the Kemi Potion Shop to be financially viable once more, provided she finds the cure first. A fantasy modern day setting, it was lighthearted and fun, but the characters seemed far younger than they claimed. The few chapters from the Princess Evelyn's point of view were snort worthy. The potion intended for unrequited love, somehow she ends up consuming it herself and falls in love with her own reflection she affectionately calls Lyn. The Princess playing coy with the mirror, claiming she's found the love of her life was ridiculously funny and only added to the overall lightheartedness of the storyline.

The romance was the only down point and was used as a tool to add further interest. Zain didn't seem all that genuine and often put his father's wishes and Hunt before Sam. She often questions how genuine he is and whether his interest in her was little more than furthering his family's investment in the competition. Team mate Kirsty was more of a vested party than a friend, and although she claimed to be one of the world's best Finders, she let the inexperienced Sam do most of the work instead. She didn't add anything to the storyline and wouldn't have been missed, apart from driving to each destination.

THE VERDICT

Amy Alward has crafted a fun and lighthearted read for fans of middle grade fantasy, treasure hunts and adventure. Highly entertaining and looking forward to continuing on with the series. Really enjoyed it.