Stupid, Stupid Girl... The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know
Written by Trish Doller
Contemporary, Thriller
Published July 1st 2015
256 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Eighteen year old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four year old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving, the opportunity to escape.

But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Since her mother passed away, eighteen year old Cadie has stepped into the role her mother vacated, taking care of four year old brother Danny while dealing with her father's absence, preferring to be alone with his grief. Newly single and desperately craving adventure, it isn't long until Cadie meets Noah and Matt in town, out of state cousins camping their way through Florida when Cadie invites Matt to a bonfire party. Hitting it off and to avoid seeing her former boyfriend, in a snap decision, Cadie decides to join the boys, shirking her responsibilities an leaving her father to care for Danny alone.

Along with the quiet and kind Lindsey who has taken a liking to Matt, Cadie finds herself dangerously attracted to Noah, agreeing coming along on their wild adventure. Neither boy is what they seem. But what begun as a rebellion against her oppressive life, will turn into Cadie's fight for survival.


Ever find yourself internally yelling at a character? RUN YOU STUPID GIRL! Yeah, this book is it. Cadie is an oppressed eighteen year old who has found herself raising her brother since her mother passed away. Her father runs the local supermarket and involves himself in everything apart from the lives of his children, and it's left to Cadie to run their household, giving up the best of her teen years to do so. So when the opportunity arises to escape the small country town, she decides to take the risk and leave with cousins Matt and Noah. Cue internal cringing.

In her need to escape her former boyfriend and her life, she's lured by the wanderlust to leave even against her better judgement. She's desperate. With the promise of a wild adventure, she struggles between her attraction to both Matt and Noah, but seeing Matt taking an interest in once friend Lindsey, she settles for Noah. Noah admits he has a violent past, a brawl resulting in being shipped off to live with his cousin Matt and his family. His car a gift from his recently departed grandmother, both boys on the way back from her funeral and attempting to find adventure along the way. Where Matt is insistent the two girls join them, Noah is torn between reluctance and wanting to spend time with Cadie, who he seems to genuinely like.

Although Cadie seems to have no sense of self preservation or common sense, I couldn't tear myself away. It was incredibly engaging and I simply couldn't put it down. It reminded me of Becca Fitzpatrick's Black Ice, but wonderfully written despite the stupidity of the main character. It was a mild thriller, predictable but still enthralling nonetheless. My only really complaint is how the situation resolved itself. It was almost laughable, but didn't detract from how much I really enjoyed it.


I loved it, despite the issues I had with Cadie's idiotic behaviour. One aspect I absolutely adored was how it depicted sex as being a positive experience, not something teens should be ashamed of. I loved the adventure road trip, hearing the local urban myths. It was thrilling, captivating and a quick read that will have you flipping pages long into the night.

How To Be Bad... ROAD TRIP!

How To Be Bad
Written by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski
Contemporary, Road Trip
Published June 2015
288 Pages
Thank you to Five Mile Press and Hot Key Books
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When you're tired of being good, sometimes you gotta be a little bad ...

Jesse, Vicks and Mel couldn't be more different. Jesse, a righteous Southern gal who's as thoughtful as she is uptight, is keeping a secret that she knows will change her life forever. Vicks is a wild child: seemingly cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside she's furious at herself for being so anxious about her neglectful boyfriend. And Mel is the new girl in town. She's already been dismissed as just another rich kid, but all she wants is to get over some of her fears and find some true friends.

But for all their differences, the girls discover they've got one thing in common, they're desperate to escape. Desperate to get the heck out of Niceville and discover their true badass selves! Even if it's just for the weekend... One borrowed car later, it's time to hit the road and head for Miami. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.
Jesse is a good Christian girl. Always level headed, but casts her stern judgement upon others. She and best friend Vicks work at the local Waffle House, where wild girl Vicks is currently in crisis mode. Boyfriend Brady has left for college and has stopped communicating, fueling fears that he has met someone else. The friendship between Jesse and Vicks has been strained of late, Jesse's faith leading her to question her friend's life choices while hiding a secret of her own. Hoping to reconnect, Jesse whisks Vicks away across the state to see Brady, but neither were prepared for the wealthy and demure Mel to invite herself along.

With both Jesse and Vicks without a cent to their names, Mel is their meal ticket and offers to pay for their fuel and meals in the hopes of developing a friendship with the girls. While on the road, Mel meets the charismatic Marco while Vicks is still pining for the still very much absent Brady. Neither compares to what waits for Jesse upon returning home.


I love adventure. Quirky road trips where not only discover themselves but that there is more to life beyond the trivial issues of being a teen. Jesse, Vicks and Mel are all unique characters in their own right. Jesse is religious and very judgmental, Vicks the party girl with the boyfriend and Mel is the wealthy quiet type who is just looking to make a friend. What sets out as a journey for Vicks to visit her boyfriend at collage, turns into an adventure of pirate themed hotels, the world's smallest police station and an urban legend in Old Joe. Each character is somewhat relatable, but Jesse tended to get on my nerves. She's painted as what could only be called trailer trash, but uses her beliefs to cast judgement upon others, especially Vicks and the two girls have drifted apart. She only agrees to allow Mel to tag along so she can pay for their fuel, food and accommodation, but loathes her for having wealth. She's a walking contradiction.

Vicks and Mel are more more engaging characters. I love Vicks and her brazen attitude. She's crass, but there is something incredibly genuine about her and she lured me into the storyline. But underneath the facade, she's terrified of reaching Miami and discovering Brady has met someone else. She jumps to conclusions but at that age, even the most confident teens still hold a certain level of self doubt. Unlike Jess, Vicks and Mel have a tentative bond between the two, leaving Jesse feeling hostile. But beyond the tension lies a fun and often flirtatious storyline of female bonding and an epic road trip of a life time.


Having loved We Were Liars and enjoyed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, How to Be Bad was a well written and fun teen read. E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski have crafted a seamless storyline from three different points of view that was not only engaging, but a great summer read. Really enjoyed it and excited to see what E. Lockhart is working on next.

Guest Post with Leisa Rayven - How Fanfiction Changed My Life

To celebrate the release of Broken Juliet, the second book in the Starcrossed series, I wanted to ask Australian author Leisa Rayven about her journey between writing Twilight fan fiction, to becoming a published author. Please welcome Leisa to Diva Booknerd.

Bad Romeo and Broken Juliet are published by Pan Macmillan and are available to purchase now.
Add the Starcrossed series to Goodreads


A few years ago, I was meandering around the internet when I stumbled upon Twilight fanfiction while googling pretty-boy British actor, Robert Pattinson. My first reaction was, "What the hell is this?" At the time, I didn't know much about Twilight, but I did know that Edward was a vampire and Bella was human; and yet, here were all these stories where Edward was human, and not only that, he was a CEO / veterinarian / tattoo artist / hockey player / billionaire playboy. Color me intrigued. That day, I read fanfiction for the better part of the day. To say I was hooked was an understatement. I soon came to realize that a lot of Twilight fanfiction writers didn't give a hoot about sparkly vampires and buff werewolves. The thing that hooked them about these books was the love story; a seemingly destined-to-be couple overcoming the odds to be together. 

Upon closer inspection, I found out these stories were being written by (mostly) women from all walks of life – housewives, doctors, lawyers, actors, microbiologists. The simple but powerful concept of epic love had inspired all of these ladies to express their own creative visions, and let me tell you, a lot of the stories were amazing. Far better than some of the published books I'd read. Their courage and creativity inspired me, and so, one day, I decided to write my own version of epic love. It was tale about a rockstar and street kid, and it was the sort of Cinderella tale I loved to read. Apparently, a lot of other people liked those stories too, because it got a lot of positive attention. Buoyed by the response, I kept writing. Chapter by chapter. Story after story. I wrote every day, sometimes seven days a week. Hundreds of hours turned into millions of words, and eventually, I developed an extremely passionate and loyal fanbase who started yelling at me to publish a book that they could cuddle and add to their shelves. Until that point, I'd never considered writing as a profession. I was a classically trained actor and singer, and had a satisfying, if sporadic career. But my fans kept begging me, and so I put on my big girl panties and strode forth into the terrifying world of professional publishing. I spit-polished my manuscript and threw it at agents willy nilly, hoping against hope one of them would catch it.

Well, one did.

The day I got an email from a New York literary agent telling me she wanted to represent me, I screamed so loudly, the neighbors thought I was being murdered. A couple of months later when my agent told me Macmillan New York had offered me a three book publishing deal, I actually fell off my chair. No lie.

Now, my first two books, Bad Romeo and Broken Juliet, have been published all over the world, and have even been translated into eight foreign languages. Every day I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

I know that I owe my current success to that random Google search years ago. If I hadn't stumbled upon fanfiction, I would never have had the courage to find my own literary voice. And without my amazing fans' support and encouragement, I'd never have considered writing as anything but a very satisfying hobby.

These days, best-seller lists everywhere are peppered with dozens of former fanfiction authors, and I'm honored to be counted among their ranks.

Talk about a Cinderella story, right?
Writing has always been a passion for Leisa, and even though she originally intended to be an actress, it wasn’t long into her time at drama school that she began writing plays.

Those plays were bad. Very bad. Well, her friends thought they were good, but that’s because they were always cast in them and any opportunity to be on stage was met with an obnoxious amount of enthusiasm. Since then, she’s honed her craft, and several of her plays have been produced and toured throughout Australia.

Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads     Pinterest     Leisa's Blog     Tumblr
Thank you to Leisa and the fabulous Lara at Pan Macmillan Australia

Afterlight by Rebecca Lim

Written by Rebecca Lim
Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense
Expected Publication June 24th 2015
240 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
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Since her parents died in a freak motorbike accident, Sophie Teague’s life has fallen apart. But she’s just enrolled at a new high school, hoping for a fresh start.

That’s until Eve, a beautiful ghost in black, starts making terrifying nightly appearances, wanting Sophie to be her hands, eyes and go to girl. There are loose ends that Eve needs Sophie to tie up. But dealing with the dead might just involve the greatest sacrifice of all.

Dark, thrilling and unrelentingly eerie, Afterlight will take you deep into the heart of a dangerous love story, revealing the otherworldly, and deadly pull of past wrongs that only the living can put right.
Sophie is coping with the loss of her parents, a motorcycle accident having killed both her mother and father and leaves her living with her grandmother above the family owned pub. After a incident driven by grief, Sophie is about to embark on life at a new school, a fresh start giving her the confidence she needs to go on. But with her unruly red hair and lean appearance, Sophie soon becomes a target of a mean girl clique. But Sophie isn't like other girls. Still grieving and seeking signs from her parents, she's visited by an apparition she's affectionately called Eve. Eve is a ghost, visiting Sophie only to show her a series of images in which she expects the teen to follow. With nothing to lose, Sophie embarks on a series of clues which only leads to disaster, when the media latches onto the story of her heroic deeds, now camping outside the The Star Hotel waiting for an exclusive.

Jordan is the ultra cool and untouchable idol at Ivy Street High School and is inexplicably drawn to Sophie, despite the two teens being worlds apart. Jordan knows about the afterlife, and together they unravel the mystery that is Eve and why she refuses to move on. But the two teens soon find themselves the target of a crime heavyweight... And soon may be joining Eve in the afterlife.

Kelly's Thoughts

Afterlight was a suspenseful and engaging story of grief, playing the reluctant hero and a ghostly apparition that demands attention. Told from Sophie's perspective and set in my hometown of Melbourne, she's the girl next door. Awkward, both socially and physically, still growing into her own body. She's the quiet, grieving teen, having lost her parents in a freak accident that she's slowly coming to terms with. Her guardian is now her tough as boots grandmother, who runs The Star Hotel, Sophie living in her own room upstairs. Eve isn't the first ghost she's seen, but by far the most insistent. Eve has unfinished business, and embroils Sophie into her world via a series of images and cryptic clues. Before long, the cool, untouchable Jordan is drawn into the fray, helping Sophie in her mission and to banish Eve from both their lives.

It was enthralling, engaging and action packed. Although Jordan was far less interesting and felt bland at times, I adored Sophie. Her character was flawed but incredible realistic. She's not all that remarkable or plans to save the world, but the reluctant heroine who up until meeting Eve, wanted to go through high school unnoticed, by everyone but Jordan that is. I felt such affection for Sophie, she's the quiet girl next door and although intelligent, she's so lovely and naive that I felt the need to protect her. Even from Jordan.

The romance was barely there, but would have preferred to have seen a friendship form between the two teens, perhaps with a similar tension as Mycroft and Watts from Ellie Marney's Every Series. It felt more so a romance of convenience and not at all believable sadly. But only a small gripe.

The Final Verdict

I loved it. The intensity, especially with the last few chapters was unexpected and had me on the edge of my seat. I adored Sophie's character, who readers will not only find likable but also relatable. Rebecca Lim is a wonderful Aussie author who's taking our own brand of young adult to the world.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means
Written by Robyn Schneider
Contemporary, Illness
Expected Publication June 2015
336 Pages
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia & Netgalley
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At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets, how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down. Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.
Lane had it all. Loving girlfriend, doting parents and a bright future. But now the seventeen year old has incurable tuberculosis, deadly and contagious and finds himself as the newest resident of Latham House, a wellness hospital where students can continue their studies while waiting for a cure. Or death. Only recently diagnosed, Lane is determined not to put his future on hold and still dreams of Standford where he is all but guaranteed his entrance. But Latham prides itself on providing a stress free environment, healthy meals and support while research attempts to find a vaccine and cure. With varying levels of illness, the patients seem so full of life and none more so than Sadie.

Sadie is one of the longest residents at Latham, she's vivacious, sassy and runs the internal racketeering scheme. But she and Lane share a history, and Sadie still holds a grudge. But when Lane starts to realise that his illness is beginning to take hold, he learns that there is more to life than maintaining his grade average and college.

Along with Sadie and her group of friends, Lane begins to truly live each day as it were his last. Because it may very well be.


Extraordinary Means was a phenomenal, hopeful and emotional read, following the lives of both Lane and Sadie and their battle against an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Told in dual points of view, Lane is a new admission at Latham House, while Sadie is a permanent fixture at the hospital slash school. Both share a turbulent history, but each have their own dragons to slay while they form a tentative friendship. Each student is suffering from the same condition, but in varying degrees. Teens learn to live with the disease, remain healthy while still maintaining a sense of their former life. But it's not enough for Lane the overachiever. His one link with the outside world has betrayed him, so he retreats to his studies, trying to maintain his grade average while his illness begins to take over. Then he meets the effervescent Sadie.

Sadie is the vision of health. She's loud, vivacious and full of life. Lane is drawn to her infectious laugh and starts to reassess his time at Latham house, to survive the stay until a cure is found. But as the two become closer, they begin to realise that there is only one way in which the group will be leaving Latham, by miraculous cure or by dying. It was simply beautiful, emotional and written with such care of hand for those effected by a terminal illness.


The underlying message of Extraordinary Means is one of hope, and learning to live in the face of adversity. This isn't another story of teens grappling with dying, but making the most of what little time they may have left. Robyn Schneider is nothing short of magnificent, spinning a tender tale of life in it's purest form. Learning to love, learning to live and learning that life is too short not to make the most from the hand you've been dealt.

The List Book... The One With The Really Long Title

Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You
Written by Todd Hasak - Lowy
Contemporary, LGBT, Coming of Age
Published April 2015
656 Pages
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
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Darren hasn't had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren's dad shows up at his house at 6:00am with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse, Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak - Lowy's debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is
1. Painful
2. Unavoidable
3. Ridiculously complicated
4. Possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.
Fifteen year old Darren has a lot to content with. He's a Jewish virgin, vegetarian, overweight and longs for acceptance. He lives with his single workaholic mother, staying with his father for days at a time while she's away with work. His older brother isn't fairing any better, away at college spending his days chasing girls and smoking pot, while his academic career falls by the wayside. But nothing could prepare Darren for the bombshell his father is about to drop, leaving Darren's world shattered in the process.

The only person Darren can turn to is Nate, and travels alone to spend time with his older brother on campus. What Darren didn't expect was to have the brooding Zoey tagging along for the ride. Zoey barely speaks, Darren trying to engage the moody and unfriendly teen over a cafeteria rubbish bin each day at school. The more time the two spend together on the impromptu road trip, the more Darren finds himself falling for her... Until Zoey disappears as quickly as she arrived.

His world is falling apart. His mother wants to move him across the country, his father is dating again and Nate had grandeurs of being little more than a house plant. The one person who understands him has vanished. Something has to give.


Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You is a storyline made entirely of lists, in which Darren seems to find solace as a coping mechanism. The ass has just fallen out of his world, he's depressed, latches onto girls hoping for a girlfriend and dreams of his own band, I suspect in the hope to find said girlfriend. His mother would rather throw herself into her work than spend time with her family, and his divorced father has just dropped a doozy of a secret in Darren's lap. Darren is a likable character, we're told he's intelligent but sadly never shown any proof. But he's creative and an incredible bassist, who misses playing with his brother's band. Darren reminded me of Charlie in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, naive and awkward, but has a strange appeal that is never quite fully explored. I loved Zoey, her character had the makings of a John Green novel. Quirky and flighty, but sadly just as she started to become interesting, she disappeared. 

I loved Darren's father, so incredibly loving and tolerable of his son while he worked through his issues. He was a big part of Darren's life, whether Darren wanted him there or not and with his mother always on the road, he desperately needed a parental figure in his life.

But beyond the quirky format, it brings to light deep and thought provoking issues such as substance abuse, sexuality and loneliness. I felt incredibly sorry for Darren but once his father's secret was revealed, he became another angry and angst riddled teen that seemed withdraw from the only person who was genuinely there for him. 

As much as I appreciated it's uniqueness, I didn't see the overall picture. I was waiting for the AH HA! moment that never arrived. It was entertaining, but the format left me feeling disconnected and unable to immerse myself within the storyline. I found the lists difficult to read with it's stop start format.


A quirky and unique coming of age, that in the right hands will indulge readers, immerse them and leave you on a high. I enjoyed it for the most part, but with a disconnection to the characters and storyline. Don't let it's length fool you, it's remarkably easy to breeze through.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Written by Stephanie Oakes
Contemporary, Retelling
Expected Publication June 22nd 2015
352 Pages
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia and Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★★★
The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen year old Minnow. Twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something, but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to unlearn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of, if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith, and the power of having faith in oneself.
Seventeen year old Minnow Bly stares from the bars through her iron cage at the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center, incarcerated and awaiting her fate. Minnow is missing twelve years of her life, after at the tender age of five her father packed up his family for the wilderness of Alberton, following the word of a professed prophet. God walks among humans upon the Earth and the Prophet has been touched by God to lead his community, with other like minded families following a greater calling. God lives in each generation of believers, dying and being reborn as a neighbour, a friend, even a janitor cleaning a restroom, to which he was discovered by the prophet.

The prophets word is gospel, each man within the community taking multiple wives, some barely legal while her new husband is generations her senior. Non believers are not only punished, but tortured. Especially those caught fraternizing with those outside of the community, deeming non believers as dirty and instill the fear that they want to kill them all.

Jude lives within the woodland, his father having moved his family to the serene forest to escape the city and care for his wife who is battling an illness. Now just Jude and his father, he too longs to escape his extreme religious beliefs, a bruised and battered young man quickly losing hope.

As their world's collide, both Minnow and Jude begin to see the truth of their world, before it all comes crashing down. But Minnow isn't a damsel in distress, she's been tortured, betrayed, violated and is determined to save herself. Her name is Minnow Bly, and this is her story.


As morbid as it sounds, I'm fascinated by cults. Those who pack up their lives and families and move into commune conditions to follow what is culturally seen as a socially unacceptable way of life without interference. Alberton is a fictional storyline that echos within these communities all over the world. It follows the story of Minnow, now one of nineteen children her own father has produced and has lived within the community for twelve years before that fateful night it all came crashing down. Minnow's story is told from the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center, where she has been sentenced to six years for the brutal assault of a man mistaken for someone else. She's scared, but her quiet resolve draws cellmate Angel to her defense, the two girls finding a kindred spirit and shared experience between them both. As Minnow's crime was committed under duress, authorities are willing to strike a deal for her release upon her eighteenth birthday, in exchange for her story.

The result is an eerie and beautifully written story of hope, determination and a question of faith. I absolutely adored Minnow who proves that a strong protagonist doesn't need to show a force of strength, but her quiet style of defiance was inspiring and takes readers on her journey of self discovery and acceptance. Through her meetings with forensic psychologist Doctor Wilson, Minnow's story is nothing short of horrific. Readers are confronted with her emotionless removal from her ordeal, from the Prophet law community members abide by, to the misogyny towards women and expected Polygamy of men taking multiple wives. Taking wives that are also underage. But none more so than Minnow having her hands removed. It was distressing to say the least.

Throughout her poignant story, hope lies in the hands of Jude, a boy who knows abuse at the hands of a loved one and their blossoming romance becomes an anchor for Minnow's respite from the Community, if only for a brief moment. Jude isn't her hero, nor does he rescue her from the captive environment but rather provides Minnow with the confidence and tools to inspire her to save herself. He isn't necessarily a love interest, but a representation of another world that is waiting for her.


It's hard to fathom that this is a debut novel. A psychological, yet poignant storyline that readers can completely immerse themselves in. Said to be a retelling of The Handless Maiden, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is confident, beautifully written and a forward thinking young adult release that will endear readers to Minnow's plight. The storyline builds in layers, revealing more of Minnow's world as she shares pieces of her story, ending in a crescendo that will leave you feeling a sense of justice and fulfillment. Absolutely remarkable.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey
Written by Sophie Kinsella
Contemporary, Mental Illness, Comedy
Published June 1st 2015
288 Pages
RATING ★★★★★
Audrey can't leave the house. she can't even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again, well Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you...
Fourteen year old Audrey lives with a debilitating social disorder, unable to venture outside except to visit that of her therapist. The mere thought of social interaction causes Audrey to spiral into a wild panic, her dark glasses a coping mechanism as to avoid eye contact for those around her, including her immediate family. But life hasn't always been so exhausting, an incident leaving Audrey shaken and watching not only her schooling, but her former friends slip away. No one truly understands Audrey's illness, what it feels like to be imprisoned inside your own thoughts. Not her overbearing, suspicious mother who lives all their lives according to The Daily Mail, older brother Frank who plans on becoming a professional gamer, or her quiet and reserved father, who dare not disagree with his wife. Audrey is being held captive by fear, but desperately longs to escape and to feel normal again. Who knew that hope would come knocking in the form of Linus.

Fifteen year old Linus is a part time actor, part time student and full time gamer, sharing the same grandeur of winning an online gaming championship as Frank. But according to The Daily Mail, hours of playing computer games per week destroys young minds and while Frank is in their mother's line of fire, Audrey and Linus begin a tentative friendship consisting of pocket notes and shoe contact. Any interaction is seen as a positive breakthrough for Audrey after her ordeal.

Linus may not understand her illness, but he inspires something in Audrey that forces her out of her comfort zone and begin to live again. The fear starts to dissipate and Audrey realises that Linus represents a future she so desperately needs. To be free of her illness and learn to live and love again.


Finding Audrey is a fun and lighthearted romantic comedy, that follows the story of Audrey who is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Audrey is aware of the reader, which only heightens her story and allows us into her debilitating world. An incident has left Audrey catatonic with fear at the mention of interacting with those outside of her immediate family, instead the fourteen year old retreats to her darkened den where she watches the Shopping Network to relax. But Audrey shares her story with the entire Turner family, each playing a role in her recovery, even if indirectly. Audrey's mother is hilariously overbearing, with her life revolving around a newspaper. Handy home tips? The Daily Mail. Parenting advice? The Daily Mail. Your son shows signs of a gaming addiction? The Daily Mail. Throughout the storyline, we see her obsession with freeing older brother Frank from the oppression of video games, against his will. Their scenes together were laugh out loud funny, so unexpected from a book addressing mental illness and lifted the mood making it a lighthearted read. 

The budding romance between Audrey and Linus was absolutely lovely. He challenged her, but was patient and didn't fix her per se, but aided in her recovery and gave Audrey the means to venture out of her comfort zone. Realistically, mental illness takes much more than a weekly therapist and a love interest to recover, but I appreciated Finding Audrey for it's entertainment that never failed to make me laugh, value rather than realism. I loved the Turner family unit, they were far from perfect, but such a strong presence in Audrey's life. Four year old Felix was positively charming. He's the only person that Audrey felt at ease with, and was able to take off her glasses and not face the fear of judgement. Each character had their own district personality that jumped off the pages, reducing me to fits of laughter between heartwarming moments. I absolutely adored it.


Wonderfully written, lighthearted and incredibly funny. Sophie Kinsella's first foray into young adult is nothing short of a brilliant success. Laugh out loud funny, you'll fall in love with the Turner family and their quirky brand of joy, hope and acceptance. Pure entertainment with a sense of fun, this is one book you'll want to read again and again.

Three, Three Star Reads... Charming, Cutesy and The Bush Tucker Man

Cherry Blossom Dreams
Written by Gwyneth Rees
Middle Grade, Contemporary
Published June 1st 2015
288 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Sometimes, something happens in your life that changes everything. When Sasha was six, her dad died suddenly and the world changed forever. Now she's twelve, it feels like things are changing all the time: her twin brother hardly talks to her any more, her mum's dating a teacher from school, her best friend Lily keeps going on about boys... And Sasha doesn't feel ready for any of it. Why can't things just stay the same?

The one place she can escape is Blossom House, her secret place, an old, echoey, overgrown, beautiful, empty mansion, where the only thing that changes is the weather and the flowers in the garden. There's just one problem, it isn't hers. And even a house can have secrets...
Life is difficult enough for twelve year old Sasha, she's on the verge of becoming a teen, experiencing her first crush on her best friend's older brother and her mother is dating her much younger English teacher, a secret she's expected to keep. To escape, Sasha and twin brother Sean find solace at Blossom House, a beautiful old house that has been empty and on the market for the last two years, Sasha's mother being the agent who manages the property. But Sasha has fallen in love with the old stately home, preferring to spend her time dreaming of whimsical dresses left behind in dust laden wardrobe, than to talk about boys and make up with her best friend Lily.

But Blossom House is about to be sold and Sasha's life is about to become a mess of told secrets, scorned friends and a grandmother that just may be hiding more secrets than Blossom House itself.


Cherry Blossom Dreams is a lovely and beautifully written coming of age for preteen girls, that will capture their imagination and sense of whimsy. Sasha is a realistic character that most of us could relate to at that age. The crush on the older and unobtainable boy, the peer pressure to grow up before we're ready and for those who have lost a parent. The twins both fear that her latest relationship will end in tears, after past tumultuous relationships left their mother confined to her room at the expense of the care of her children. Luckily enough, the children have their overbearing grandmother who was able to step in and become a mother figure. It was the only negative aspect to the storyline, where their mother often put her own needs before that of the twins.

A lovely coming of age novel that's delightfully fluffy for it's middle grade intended audience.

Written by Lizzie Wilcock
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Survival
Published May 2015
256 Pages
Thank you to Scholastic Australia
It’s not my desert, but this is my escape.

I’m doing it on my own.

Karanda Hooke doesn’t need anybody or anything. On her way to her sixth foster home, a crash leaves her stranded in the outback with only a backpack, a bottle of water and a stained picture of the mother she hasn’t seen in years.

This is her chance to escape her old life.

There’s only one thing in her way... Eight year old Solomon.
Fourteen year old Karanda is on her way to her sixth foster home, driving the long stretch between Darwin and Alice Springs with her handler and eight year old Solomon, who is meeting his new foster family. Karanda has never felt as though she's belonged, moved from family to family since her mother abandoned her at the tender age of only six years old. The last thing she needs is another family who doesn't want her, then an argument sends the car veering off the road, slamming into a tree.

This is her one chance to escape before a rescue arrives. Trudging through the tough Northern Territory desert to find food and water isn't as easy as Karanda thought, and now she needs to contend with Solomon, who refuses to return to the wreckage and wait for rescue.

But the dry, arid land is no place for two children and both Karanda and Solomon are about to discover why. Their only option is to adapt and learn to live off the land... Or return. But how do return to a foster system that has already failed them both?


Thirst was a unique mixture of contemporary, coming of age and survival in the Australia outback. The storyline follows Karanda, angry, volatile and now having caused the accident that has left her and Solomon stranded, believes she's a wanted girl. Solomon barely speaks, his quiet intelligence and observations can be thanked for keeping the two children alive. All Karanda wants to do is escape another foster home, and tries several times to walk away from Solomon, happy to leave the eight year old boy to fend for himself. The underlying message of hope, family and acceptance is overwhelmed by Karanda's too abrasive personality and I'm not sure the intended middle grade audience will understand her anger towards Solomon stemming from her previous foster situations.

I really enjoyed the survival aspect, as implausible as it was and Solomon's knowledge of bush survival. The descriptive world was incredibly vivid and Lizzie Wilcock created a realistic landscape that was both beautiful and terrifying, that was able to hold my interest. I really enjoyed the ending, and children will enjoy that Karanda was able to find redemption after her ordeal.

Bright Before Sunrise
Written by Tiffany Schmidt
Contemporary Romance
Published May 1st 2015
304 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone... But has no idea of what she wants for herself. Her seemingly perfect life is marred only by Jonah, the one person who won't give her the time of day, but also makes her feel, well, something. So when they are repeatedly thrown together over the course of one night, anything can and does happen. Told in alternating chapters, this poignant, beautiful novel's energy and tension, amidst the humor and romance, builds to a new beginning of self acceptance and hope.
Jonah wishes he was anywhere but Cross Pointe, his mother moving them into the wealthy and tight knit community with her new family. A place where he'll never fit in. His heart remains over the state border with girlfriend Carly, where Jonah counts down the days to graduation and plans to leave.

Brighton is as beautiful as she is popular and has taken it personally when Jonah chooses not to be part of the school community. Not taking no for an answer, she needs him to agree to her latest project, collecting books to donate to underprivileged elementary schools. But underneath the brilliant smile is a girl who still grieves the loss of her father, trying to hold her emotionally absent mother together while her wild sister carves out her own life at college.

Brighton needs Jonah to like her and makes it her mission to engage him socially, and in a night of misunderstandings, parties, former girlfriends and running through sprinklers, the two teens from different worlds will find that they have so much more in common than they'd thought.


Bright Before Sunrise is a fun, uncomplicated and fluffy teen read about finding your place and learning to live with the hand you've been dealt. Told in alternate points of view, Jonah is withdrawn and angry at the world. He's the leftover child from a broken marriage and seems determined not to adapt to his new life. Honestly, he needed a kick in the pants. While Brighton is seemingly the typical popular girl. Beautiful, wealthy and seems to be only interested in Jonah because he's the one person who refuses to fall at her feet. She needs him to like her, despite the fact he has a girlfriend, even if it isn't for much longer.

I couldn't really connect to either character, but both complimented one another and found solace in hidden secrets. It isn't long before Jonah sees that there is more to Brighton than first realised, and over the course of a few hours, find themselves falling for one another. It's not quite instant love, but a mutual fondness over a shared experience.


Bright Before Sunrise is an entertaining teen read for those looking for something quick and without a deeper substance. Even though I did enjoy it, it could have used a little more emotional pull to add depth and character development.

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson... Simply Beautiful

I'll Give You The Sun
By Jandy Nelson
Expected Publication June 1st 2015
432 Pages
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Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff dives and wears red, red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways... Until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else, an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
Twins Noah and Jude have always been inseparable and share a special bond. Noah is the quiet sibling, preferring to spend his days lost in his artistic talent. Jude likes to surf and socialise while lost in the pages of her late grandmother's bible, a God in which she refers to as Clark Cable. Both siblings connect through their artistic expression, something both parents encourage. Where Jude has a loving and close bond with their father, Noah is left on the outer and often directs his anger towards the man that seems to forgotten he has a son. But through Noah's raw and incredible talent, he finds a special bond with his mother, visiting museums and inciting a friendly competition between the two siblings with the hope of both being accepted into the school of fine arts.

Noah dreams of becoming an artist, finally being accepted by a community that doesn't resort to targeting him for being gay. But in a heartbreaking and devastating set of events, Noah and Jude's world is torn apart, their once close relationship withering as a result of the aftermath. Now Jude and Noah are shells of their former selves. Noah has is now the social twin, opting to spend his time with Jude's former friends, while Jude has retreated to the safety of her Grandmother's bible and living life with care and precautions.

Their relationship is strained and it will be Jude that will do the unforgivable. Noah is no longer painting and has lost his zest for life. Once two halves of a whole, they'll need to move mountains to reunite once more... Or stone sculptures from a man who knows what life is like to have loved and lost.


I can't even begin to describe how lyrical and utterly beautiful I'll Give You The Sun is. Told from dual points of view, siblings Noah and Jude are best friends, companions and share a special connection that only twins share. Until it all falls apart. Before their world is torn apart, Noah is the quiet twin, bullied by two local thugs who suspect Noah may be gay. His only saving grace is Jude. Jude is the golden child in the eyes of their father, she loves to surf and has always been the bright and lovable tomboy. Until recently. Their mother has taken a keen interest in Noah's artistic talent and Jude begins to lash out. Vying for her mother's attention has lead Jude down a dangerous path... But the roles have reversed and Jude is now withdrawn and relies on superstitions and fate to guide her through life.

Throughout the pages, we see the stark differences between both siblings in current day and before the event that ultimately drove them apart. The flow between the character development and regression was stunning, siblings who are ultimately fighting their own battle in what could also be classed as an intricate coming of age. What ultimately drew me into the storyline is the writing. The Sky is Everywhere was stunning, but I'll Give You the Sun is simply phenomenal. It's lyrical beauty is wondrous.
He floated into the air high above the sleeping forest, his green hat spinning a few feet above his head. In his hand was the open suitcase and out of it spilled a whole sky of stars.
Noah's point of view is more romantic and whimsical, he paints within his own thoughts and sees his world as brushstrokes waiting to be painted. Where Jude's feet are firmly planted on the ground, she's the logical thinker, who now is lost within superstitions and her grandmothers old bible that she lives by as a self help book. It also explores grief, first love, sexual orientation and navigating the period between child and adulthood.
"For the sun, stars, oceans, and all the trees, I'll consider it," I say, knowing she'll never agree. She knows how badly I want the sun and trees. We've been dividing up the world since we were five.

Never have I encountered a contemporary so utterly lyrical. I inhaled it's beauty and devoured it. This is the year of the young adult contemporary and I'll Give You The Sun is by far one of the best books I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
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