One Would Think The Deep

One Would Think The Deep
Written by Claire Zorn
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOzYA
Published June 30th 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to UQP
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Sam stared at the picture of the boy about to be tipped off the edge of the world, the crushing weight of water about to pummel him. Sam knew that moment exactly, the disbelief that what was about to happen could even be possible. The intake of breath before the flood.

Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever.

With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty.

Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision... Will he sink or will he swim.
Seventeen year old Sam is waiting at the hospital for his new life to arrive, packing up his meager belongings and leaving Sydney for the surf coast after his mother passed away unexpectedly. His only known relative is his estranged aunt Lorraine and her two boys, having never known his father, his mother adamant until the very end. Now Sam finds himself on a folding camp bed in Lorraine's spare room, much to the disgust of cousin Shane who has made it clear Sam isn't welcome. It's Shane's younger brother Minty who takes Sam under his wing, once firm friends and a support for one another as children.

Minty is a local hero, on the verge of a professional surfing career in a town where surf culture flows through their veins. Sam has never surfed before, but is a passionate amateur meteorologist who can see patterns in weather and waves. Sam begins to use the water as an escape, from his sense of abandonment and the burden his new home until he comes of age. It's there where he meets new resident Gretchen, now a local girl from an affluent family who deserves far more than Sam has of himself to give.

Sam's life plunges into darkness, struggling with his grief and resorting to physical violence. His once bright future his mother had envisioned, having slipped through his fingers the moment his mother died in his arms.

My Thoughts

One Would Think The Deep is an honest and unflinching account of Australia and it's often backwater culture. Sam is an intelligent young man whose passion for music is only surpassed by his love of meteorology. Until his mother dies suddenly and leaves Sam stranded with his estranged aunt. Sam is a multilayered and complex young man, he feels the loss of his mother so deeply but rather than grieve, he uses the water as an escape. My heart ached for Sam. Losing his only parent and now having moved into a testosterone filled home with virtual strangers. Sam is from an era where boys are seen as effeminate and their sexualty challenged when showing emotional weakness, it's the harden up mentality that is still instilled in young men around the country today.

As children, Sam and Minty were inseparable and although seven years has passed, their friendship remains effortless and steadfast. Minty is a character that on the surface, is jovial and carefree but feels the pressure of entering the professional surfing circuit and the expectations placed upon him by older brother Shane. Minty spends his days looking for the next big wave, while spending his nights in the company of local girls often at the expensive of best friend Ruby's feelings. As much as I enjoyed Minty's character, he and Shane's attitude towards females was often deplorable.
'That her? Shit. Let me know when you're finished,'
The guys talked about every girl that walked past. Whether they'd do her with the lights on or off, that kind of thing. Minty wouldn't join in exactly, but he'd laugh. He'd call Shane a dirty bastard as if it were endearing to reduce girls you'd been with to bits of meat.
Sadly the male pack mentality also extended to Sam, who may not have engaged in crude comments but enabled those around him by staying silent. Sadly it reminded me of my own experiences as a teen, where casual sexism and misogyny were applauded by teens males.

I adored Ruby's character. Adopted by a local family, she's Minty's best friend who pines for more but refuses to become just another sexual devotee. Ruby is also struggling with her sense of self, feeling as she doesn't quite belong. She's a strong and determined young woman who wants to make something of her life beyond the sleepy coastal town.

Sam's love interest Gretchen was lovely. It's clear that she and Sam are attracted to one another, but Sam is struggling with his grief and is heading down the path of self destruction, refusing to hurt Gretchen in the process. He begins to find fulfillment in violence, the one condition that his aunt Lorraine will not stand for and has places boundaries upon his stay.

Not being a fan of the surf culture, I could still relate to Sam's struggle and how he depended on the water as a means of escape. I loved the musical references, especially being a long time fan of the late Jeff Buckley and remembering his death during the nineties when One Would Think The Deep takes place. His crooning often soothed the restless souls of teens all over the world with his poignant lyrics, myself included. I could vividly imagine Sam laying on his camp bed in Lorraine's spare room. Through music, it allowed me to connect with Sam's character on a deeper level.

Claire Zorn is an incredible author who isn't afraid delve into the Australian cultural landscape, creating realistic and remarkable characters. One Would Think The Deep will provide readers with a sense of nostalgia of a nonchalant era that was often brutal and politically incorrect. Sam's story is heartbreaking and incredibly poignant, ensuring a beautiful and introspective read.

When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home
Written by Paul Griffin
Middle Grade, Contemporary
Published June 27th 2016
256 Pages
Thanks to Text Publishing
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A boy’s chance encounter with a scruffy dog leads to an unforgettable friendship in this deeply moving story about life, loss and the meaning of family.

Ben Coffin has never felt like he fits in. A former foster kid, he keeps his head down at school to avoid bullies and spends his afternoons reading scifi books at the library. But all that changes when he finds a scruffy abandoned dog named Flip and befriends the librarian’s daughter, Halley. For the first time, Ben starts to feel like he belongs in his own life. Then everything changes, and suddenly Ben is more alone than ever. But with a little help from Halley’s magician father, Ben discovers his place in the world and learns to see his own magic through others’ eyes.

Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, When Friendship Followed Me Home is a must read for dog lovers and fans of emotionally resonant middle grade novels.
Abandoned as a baby and raised within an orphanage until adopted by the free spirited, larger than life Tess, a woman who has become the only mother he's ever known. Twelve year old Ben and his mother are planning on moving to Florida after her retirement, Ben figuring it's useless to make friends since he'll be gone soon enough. But Ben hadn't realised how lonely he'd become until a stray little dog follows him home from school.

The newly named Flip seems to have been abandoned and in need of a loving home. The boy and his new best friend are inseparable, a bond formed between the two and giving one another a friendship that neither had known existed. Along with his friendly librarian Mrs Lorentz and her daughter Halley like the comet, Ben begins to believe that he's finally found a place in the world, then tragedy strikes. Ben's world is about to come crashing down and both Ben and Flip will need to learn how to live life again once more.

My Thoughts

When Friendship Followed Me Home is an incredibly poignant yet beautiful middle grade read that proves even in the darkest moments throughout our lives, someone is always willing to leave the light on. From the first instance readers are introduced to Ben, you can feel how remarkable this young man is. He's only twelve, but such an old soul who now feels a sense of family thanks to Tess, a kindhearted speech therapist who adopted Ben two years prior. Their relationship was breathtakingly beautiful, so when their cosy little family of two soon became three, I was so emotionally overwhelmed and placed my faith in that When Friendship Followed Me Home wouldn't destroy me.

But it did, and I loved each and every moment.

Ben is compassionate and sensitive young man who not only is the target of an aggressive school bully, but is hesitant to form friendships as he and Tess plan to move to Florida shortly. So Ben spends his free time nestled within bookshelves at the library with Mrs Lorentz to keep him company. It's there where he discovers Halley her daughter, a girl with a bright personality, warm and wonderfully written, who is determined to fight her diagnosis.

The newly named Flip was a pure delight. A small, neglected dog who desperately deserved a forever home. Flip is cared for, loved and soon becomes apparent that Ben has become his world while charming everyone within his orbit. With his intellect and wonderful nature, Ben begins training Flip as an assistance dog for a children's reading program, in which children read to the loving little dog without judgement and building their confidence.

Then Ben's world is torn apart.

My heart ached and found myself distraught on Ben's behalf. I was so deeply invested in his character, that on several occasions I could barely read through my tears. The one constant throughout the book is Flip, Ben and his friendship with Halley, who are writing a fantastical novella together to cherish all the people who are in their lives and inspired by her librarian mother and father, who is a magician and illusionist.

The Final Verdict

As charming and enchanting as When Friendship Followed Me Home is, it's also absolutely heartbreaking and one of the most poignant reads you'll ever have the pleasure of experiencing. It's utterly lovely, yet explores issues of abandonment, domestic violence, homelessness, illness, grief and socioeconomic diversity. It was utterly beautiful and has stayed with me long after the final page was turned.

For those asking about the fate of Flip

Flip survives.

Diversity in Fiction - Not everyone is white, wealthy and straight

Diversity is more than a movement in young adult fiction, it's a need for readers to be represented by all walks of life rather than just the token character. In recent years, there has been a call within the young adult reading community for authors to create realistic fiction that represent teen communities. But when does a movement become real change and what can you do as a reader to help?

I asked our teen and young adult community for their thoughts on relatable characters, representation and how we can support the call for diversity beyond a trending hashtag. Please be mindful that readers are sharing their personal journeys.

Hannah - #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Actually buying diverse books is a very, very important way to help. The success of this movement rests on supporting creators and publishers who are putting out quality diverse content, preferably by diverse creators. Moral support is important, but monetary support for creators helps ensure their ability to work, and strong sales numbers allow publishers to bring on similar projects when they might have received resistance before.

If you read a particular diverse book that strikes a chord in you, please recommend it far and wide.

Visit We Need Diverse Books Website  Twitter  Facebook

The Publicist

Publisher’s certainly look at what’s getting traction with readers when considering whether to acquire a book, so if there’s a high demand for titles told from a particular perspective or exploring a certain theme, this will certainly work its way into the acquisition discussions. That being said, originality is a big factor too. We all like to read something new, whether that be a character we haven’t seen represented before or a theme that hasn’t thoroughly been teased out in the genre yet. In this way, diversity finds its way into acquisition meetings and can actually become a selling point for the book. Particularly when it comes to literary fiction, a genre people expect to push the boundaries a bit.

Kynndra - Emotional Support

Diversity is a slow factor in today's YA novels, there's no doubt about it. Over the years, I've seen books adapting to this movement - but I don't think we're there quite yet. As a teenager, I always found it unsettling and common where I'd read a book only to discover that I couldn't feel anything relatable in the characters or stories I read. We've all been there, I'm sure of it. Where you've come out of a book and found you took nothing from it on an emotional level. Everything and everyone was made to be so perfect. I can't tell you how important it is for a kid to see themselves portrayed in the media - whether it be in books, movies or television shows. Teenagers are naturally sheltered creatures - we have a knack for pushing our feelings / true selves all deep inside for fear of judgement either by our parents or our peers. It doesn't matter what spectrum of diversity they fall in, it could be in aspects such LGBT, race, mental health, religion, abuse, or disability. There is a never ending list of what accounts as 'diverse'.

I only just started getting back into reading in 2014, my eleventh grade of high school. I went back to reading because I was going through a really hard time at that point. Throughout my junior and senior year I suffered bouts of depression and anxiety due to my poor home life and about a hundred other issues. Books were, and still are my escape to this day. When I shut myself up in my room I sought out the characters and the stories that allowed me to see myself within those printed words. I sought out the fictional boys and girls who had struggles and tribulations much like my own because I drew strength from their experiences. While I know it's all make belief, these diverse and relatable stories are what got me through the darker times in my life, just like I know they've helped out thousands of other people too.

Diversity is so important for the Young Adult crowds because it reminds us we're not alone. It reminds us that somewhere out there - regardless if it's in a fictional world or the real world that there is someone who's going through the same things we are. If a kid is somehow diverse, often times they are the outcasts, or are ridiculed and bullied for that one thing that makes them them. And if they can somehow feel more included, more prevalent by reading what their going through in a book I promise that it does make a huge impact on their lives. I speak from personal experience and nothing more. When I found YA books that dealt with depression, and abuse I took so much comfort in those words because for once I could see me. I, as a teenager cannot stress how vital it is for a kid to be seen and acknowledged in a world that is so afraid of difference.

Find Kynndra via Twitter  Tumblr  Goodreads

Daniel - Race and Sexuality

I'm a Korean - Canadian male teenager, and it's safe to say that there's not a lot of 'me's in YA literature. Most of the lead characters nowadays are female, and even when they're male, they're most certainly not Korean. In fact, the only Korean male I've ever encountered is Minho from The Maze Runner. Would I like to see more Koreans in YA literature? Sure.

But here's the thing. I don't find race diversity quite as important as something like diversity in sexuality of YA characters. And here's why. Right now, in YA books, your background and ethnicity doesn't really seem to influence your character. In other words, characters' identities don't seem to be shaped by their beginnings. I'll use Minho as an example. The fact that he's Asian doesn't really change anything about who he is. Even if he were white, or black, readers would have fallen in love with his sassy, strong character just as easily.

I agree that we need to acknowledge all races in YA literature, and it is important to feature characters from various backgrounds, but in terms of relatability, race doesn't really appear to matter. Let's look at diversity in sexuality. THAT matters. Sexual orientation is a massive part of your identity, and makes a character instantly relatable to readers. But race? Not as much. I didn't relate to Minho more because he was Korean.

And here's the problem. The problem is not just the fact that we need more characters of different races and backgrounds, but also that authors need to find a way to make their races matter. As a Korean - Canadian, I can say that my race matters to me - I would be a completely different person if I were not from Korea. I embrace my background. In order for authors to create more relatable ethnically diverse characters, they need to make race and background a bigger part of the characters' identities. So, author, you've chosen to include some black characters, some Asians, and some Latin Americans in your book. Great. Why?

Why does it matter that they're white, or black, or Asian? How does that shape who they are? If authors want to succeed in creating relatable characters of different backgrounds, these are the kinds of questions they should be answering. In short, it's not enough to just throw in diverse characters for the sake of diversity. Everyone's race impacts them in some way, and authors have to find a way of displaying that more in their works.

Find Daniel via Sporadic Reads  Twitter Goodreads

Chiara - The Importance of LGBTQIA+

The diverse book movement in the YA community has been pretty big as of late. There’s been the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks that took Twitter by storm, and there have been countless posts around the blogosphere consisting of lists of diverse books.

When there’s diverse talk in terms of LGBTQIA+ novels, I typically see the same few books on everyone’s lists. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because at least those books are getting their deserved spotlight, but it feels a bit repetitive. Like everyone sees these same few titles and think that they’re the only LGBTQIA+ YA novels out there.

And yet, I see people calling for more LGBTQIA+ novels. But still sharing these same titles over and over again. What about all the other LGBTQIA+ novels that have been released, and have gone by without a second glance from this community? Why isn’t anyone reading them?

There are numerous LGBTQIA+ novels out there. Definitely not nearly as many as cishet (cisgender/heterosexual) novels, but enough that if you genuinely want to read more LGBTQIA+ novels, it’s really not that hard to find some. You might have to traverse Goodreads for a few minutes, instead of just immediately seeing the book in your feed because everyone and their dog is adding it to their TBR.

Instead of simply calling for diversity and making lists and reading those same few titles that everyone else is, we need to support what diversity is already out there. Publishers aren’t going to increase the number of LGBTQIA+ novels they publish if those novels don’t receive the same kind of support as any cishet novel they publish. If you want a diverse book, go out and get it. Don’t just wish there were more, because chances are you haven’t read all there is. Because those few titles you see are not the only ones. I promise you.

If you want diverse books, you need to read them. Borrow them from the library. Buy them. Review them. If they’re wonderful, shout about it from the rooftops. Make a list of diverse books that include titles that aren’t on everyone else’s lists.

You can’t sit back and wait for change to happen. You’ve got to help push it along. Because your voice in this community matters. Because readers need to see themselves in the books they read – their identities and their experiences. Because books need to represent reality. Because we need diverse books.

Camryn - The voice of her generation

There aren’t many YA books that I can relate to. I don’t read them to relate to anything, actually, because I usually can’t connect to what the characters are going through. Girls fight over horrible boys, kids are out saving the world, and none of them have friends who look like me.

Except, I can’t go around saying that anymore, because it isn’t completely true. Now, we have characters who look like me and save the world. We have girls who look like me, but don’t talk like me. Characters that I should be able to, but can’t.

Part of the issue is that a lot of adults get into writing so much that they forget about their audience. I think it’s easy to get so into a story and forget who you’re writing it for. I’ve seen it lots of times during discussions online, where other teens and myself will try to participate and are excluded. It’s always made me feel odd, because we’re the demographic that these books are for, yet they don’t want our opinions.

It’s equally as weird when it has to do with both diversity and being a teen. I’ll say "Black teens don’t act like that," and I get shot down for being a teenager but also because I’m a black teenager that speaks up about these sorts of things. I’m always hearing about how black teens don’t read, not as much as white kids anyway, and I can’t help but think it would be different if the books were different.

I know that I get tired reading about the same stories over and over again. No, I cannot relate to a rich white girl who fights over a boy with her best friend, even though he sucks. I can’t relate to a teenager who steals a car and doesn’t get in trouble because their skin is white. I can’t relate to towns filled with white people.

Perhaps it’s just my own problem, but I’ve actually been avoiding these stories. The basic rule is that, if a book only features white characters, I stop reading. There are exceptions, but I don’t want to ignore the books written by people like me or even not like me.

Justina Ireland tweeted the other day about how people of color have had to basically live as white people to be taken serious and listened to for many times throughout their lives. They have to "embody whiteness" at work or at school to be taken seriously. That’s why a person of color can write a white character easily while a white person cannot do the same for a POC character. No one is asking them to bend to the methods and ways of POC, or even pay attention to us. I’ve noticed, because some white people get angry when I demand that they notice me.

Reading YA is fun a lot of the time because I can’t relate to what’s going on. I don’t always want to be reminded of my situation, after all, and a lot of the fun of reading is escaping to other worlds. But my favorite books are the ones that whisk me away while still connecting to me. I can read about princesses and understand their isolation. I can read about kids in magical corn fields and understand what it feels like to be noticed but not seen.

Most of all, I want to read stories about kids who are different from me, but they aren’t what we call the "norm"- straight, white, cisgender, etc. I want to read stories about non-binary kids and Indian kids and Jewish kids. I want to read stories about kids who are Muslim and kids who don’t know what they are yet.

There are so many different types of people, and the teenage years are a time of discovery. We don’t all discover the same thing, and yet we’re always told the same stories.

The most important thing is that the stories are told well. Often times, when we ask for diverse stories, we get authors who don’t know what they’re doing. They usually have a significant amount of privilege that allows them to be heard over other voices that actually aren’t part of the "norm." Lots of times, white authors write horrible black characters after refusing to research or listen to sensitivity readers. Cisgender authors don’t know enough about non-binary people and do a horrible job at rep.

I want to hear more stories, but I want to make sure that they’re told well. Teens deserve that much.

Find Camryn via Half Monster Girls  Twitter

Final Thoughts

As an adult who reads young adult novels, I want to thank teens for sharing their space. But as adults, we also need to recognise that we're not the intended audience and therefore may not find characters relatable, having grown up in a different era from the teens of today. Applaud great writing and authors who are advocates for inclusion and representation but as adults, we need to be mindful that authors first and foremost are writing for teens and they deserve to have their voices heard.

Thank you to Hannah, my publicist contact, Kynndra, Daniel, Chiara and Camryn Garrett

How do you feel about the current diversity we find in young adult reads? Do you find characters relatable?

Hubby's Review: Steelheart... It's Awesome!

Reviewed by my husband

Steelheart Reckoners Book One
Written by Brandon Sanderson
Fantasy, Science Fiction
Published September 24th 2013
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Book Rating ★★★★★
Audiobook Rating ★★★★★
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... Nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart, the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
Our story begins with young boy David and his father. David has seen something that nobody before, or since has. David has seen an Epic bleed and not just any Epic, it was Steel Heart.

The event referred to as Calamity, brought about a change never seen on Earth before. Ordinary humans somehow gained extraordinary abilities, creating illusions, predicting the future or being able to fly. Those deemed Epics, live on the surface while ordinary humans are living in an area called the Under Streets with the rest of the non Epic population in New Cargo. David is a mysterious character. Readers will learn his motives within the first few chapters and although his character seems naive at times, his motivation and determination knows no bounds.

David has determined where a powerful Epic will be assassinated ahead of time and is there to witness the event, obsessed with the Epic population is not only dangerous but will put David's life at risk. The hit to be carried out by a band of underground rebels known as The Reckoners, a group David is desperate to join and prove his worth as an asset. 

The Husband's Thoughts

Steelheart has a strong Science Fiction element, realism and a vivid dystopian future driven by a totalitarianism style of world building. As the reader is introduced to the band of colourful characters, all with secrets of their own, David's character begins to develop as his journey progresses.

David has always struggled to survive, working as a child and now orphaned. His mother having died years prior, then Steel Heart having killed his father when David was still a boy. Now at seventeen, David is armed and the self trained Epic hunter wants revenge. The Epic population are seen as superior, dominating ordinary humans while not held accountable for their actions. They're villainous, self serving and see humans as barely being tolerated. The Epic is a new breed of superhero, heinous villains who see the ordinary population as disposable mundanes.

The audiobook was well narrated, it lures readers into the world of New Cargo and it's tyrannical inhabitants. It's captivating and brilliantly written. Brandon Sanderson has reinvented the symbolic superhero, blurring the lines between heroes and villains while engrossing readers with an intense and unique storyline.

The Leaving

The Leaving
Written by Tara Altebrando
Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Published June 1st 2016
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back, with no idea of where they've been.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are... Fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back.

Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother, dead or alive, and isn't buying this whole memory loss story.
It's been eleven years since six five year old children disappeared from their first day of Kindergarten without a trace, an event locals have called The Leaving. leaving behind broken families and grieving parents, the now sixteen year old teens find themselves only minutes from where they were taken, all wearing the same outfit and all with individual maps in their pocket to ensure they reach home safely. But not all the children have come home.

Avery's brother Max who was also abducted that day is missing, while the others have returned. Avery remembers clutching her teddy bear during the press conference and growing up in a shadow of her brother that may never come home.

The five returned teens each hold one memory from their time in captivity, but all have been educated, in good health and have been taken care of physically. Where have they been and why can't they remember? But as shock turns to skepticism within the community, the teens begun to piece together moments from the last eleven years of their absence and left to decipher what is real and what they've been lead to believe.

My Thoughts

The Leaving was a bizarre blend of contemporary and intrigue that will leave readers wondering what is real and what we're manipulated to believe. Told from several points of view, Lucas and Scarlett who were both taken at five years of age and from the perspective of Avery, who's brother Max was taken and has yet to return with the other five teens. Scarlett is returning to a single mother, a former alcoholic who believes her daughter was abducted by aliens and has immersed herself in a support group of other returnees. Lucas returns to a tragic accident and now being questioned by the police. Based on how they gravitate towards one another, Lucas and Scarlett believe they may have been once in love, but the memory has been altered upon their return, along with Kristen, Sarah and Adam. It's Avery who is waiting for her brother Max to come home, the sixth child stolen and now seemingly missing. Avery doesn't believe that the returned group can't remember where they've been or who Max is, and is determined to conduct her own investigation fueled by jealousy and anger.

The core storyline of the children being taken and returned eleven years later was brilliant. I loved the intrigue as the storyline unraveled as to why the children were taken and where they've been. What did disappoint me was Avery's character. She fluctuated from being jealous of not only the attention the group were receiving, but also of Scarlett and her relationship with Lucas. She's one of the most narcissistic characters I've come across in young adult and I found unable to tolerate her attitude. She could have been forgiven, as her brother is still missing while the others have returned with an unlikely story but in the same breath, she's disappointed that a body recovered was not that of her brother.

Each point of view is vivid and uniquely told using the page formatting to represent each character of Scarlett and Lucas. With memory loss comes confusion and voids within their thoughts and is formatted to give the reader a sense of their inner turmoil. Scarlett's thoughts are scattered with dashes reaching across paragraphs and pages, often in the middle of her thoughts or sentences while Lucas's memories are heard in sounds, such as a gun being loaded and formatted as large black boxed quotes.

It was the final few chapters that left me bewildered. Avery determined to lure Lucas into a romantic relationship even though her brother is still missing was awkward and uncomfortable. It didn't feel genuine and that she pined away for Lucas only because she wanted what she believed Scarlett held. The disappearance of Kristen, Sarah and Adam from the storyline, we see brief updates of their lives only to fade into obscurity and of course the conclusion. It felt almost unplanned and I didn't fully grasp what was happening without having to reread due to it being so utterly random.

Overall, I really did enjoy it despite it's issues. But the ending left me unsatisfied and Avery's character, who also let the storyline down with her constant narcissistic attitude and indulgent personality.

A Court of Mist and Fury

Contain spoilers. Please see my review for book one here.

A Court of Mist and Fury
A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Two
Written by Sarah J. Maas
New Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Published May 3rd 2016
Thank you to Bloomsbury Children's Books
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Feyre is immortal.

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people - nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand's dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.
She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.
It's been three months since Feyre had been Under The Mountain, in which her human life was taken and is now immortal, a being she once previously so desperately despised. Living within the Spring Court, Feyre wants for nothing, her every need catered for by her lady in waiting while she wanders the sprawling mansion alone. Tamlin continues to come and go, the curse lifted from his court but conflict still stirs among the nobility of the immortal world.

On what should have been one of the most important days of her life, Feyre is now faced with Rhysand and his promise upon saving her. Being trapped within the Spring Court and Tamlin's refusal to assist honing her new abilities under the guise of wanting Feyre to remain safe and Feyre is ready to escape. Imprisoned by the man who claims to love her, Feyre discovers freedom within The Night Court, a world she never knew existed. During the war, Rhysand ensured the safety of his court which now thrives on art, creativity and stardust. But it seems that Feyre's freedom will again come at a high expense, betrayed once again by those she trusts.

My Thoughts

A Court of Mist and Fury has been one of my most anticipated reads this year, picking up three months after Under The Mountain, Feyre is now immortal and learning to live a quiet life alongside Tamlin in the Spring Court. In A Court of Thorns and Roses, although the romance could have been described as Stockholm Syndrome with Tamlin having taken Feyre captive, I was disappointed in not only Tamlin's character but how Feyre was in his company was well. There was no romance between the two. Feyre had kept justifying that she loved him, but he would basically leave for days at a time while keeping her castle bound, come home, maul her and take off again. I wasn't a fan of the sex scenes between them, they felt awkward and uncomfortable but they seemed to be written to ensue the reader felt discomfort and as a result, question Tamlin's character. He's portrayed as aggressive and secretive, disguised as keeping her safe and a meek girl that was waiting for rescue. Waiting for Rhysand.

It definitely felt as though their roles have been reversed. In A Court of Thorns and Roses, Rhysand felt as though he was the darker, if not the more potentially sinister character. Readers knew very little about Rhysand, so we were left to draw our own conclusions. He showed Feyre compassion which lead to her finding that empowerment that she needed to escape the Spring Court but Tamlin's character shouldn't have been sacrificed to further Feyre's character and her relationships. Seeing how her relationship with Tamlin wasn't based on equality and had fallen in love with who was essentially her captor, it was probably inevitable. It was a destructive relationship that seemed convenient, rather than Feyre and Tamlin being in love. I do wish she had fought back against Tamlin rather than allow him to dominate her. I can understand that she was weakened by the binds placed upon her, but as a reader those first few chapters infuriated me. Until Rhysand came along.

Oh. My. Word. I was intrigued by his character in book one, not much was known about Rhysand and he alluded a mystery that seemed sinister but when it comes to Sarah J Maas, characters aren't typically what they seem. While it seemed he was a master manipulator, as his character developed I found myself understanding why he needed to rescue Feyre. Discovering The Night Court through his eyes was a magical experience and although Rhysand seems carefree and jovial, not to mention flirtatious, his character is multilayered with a depth that had endeared readers. Myself included.

Feyre was a character I had initially found fierce, before succumbing to Tamlin and losing her independence. Although it took another male to rescue her initially, her new environment allowed her to grow as a character, finding her sense of self and self worth again.

I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.
I was a survivor, and I was strong.
I would not be weak, or helpless again.
I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.

The world building once again was wonderfully written and complements the series, rather than overwhelm the non fantasy reader. She's taken those elements from her popular Throne of Glass series and infused them into a passionate and sexy series that caters to the older or more mature young adult reader.

The Final Verdict

What strikes me most with Sarah J Maas is that her storylines aren't unique as such, but it's how she engages her readers which brings them to life. Love triangles, instant love and angst, she's one of the few authors that can play on tropes and still be widely praised regardless. Despite the villainisation of Tamlin, I really enjoyed the storyline overall especially Rhysand's character development and how he refused to allow Feyre to be victimised. I did struggle with Feyre in the beginning, as a huntress who was headstrong and how she often seemed comfortable being taken care of as it seemed at odds with her character.

But as I turned the final page, I was utterly in love. With Feyre's empowerment, the promise of a devious revenge and of course with Rhysand. Always Rhysand.

All Aboard! Passenger

Passenger Passenger Book One
Written by Alexandra Bracken
Time Travel, Historical Fiction, Romance
Published January 25th 2016
469 Pages
Published by Harper Collins Australia
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Etta Spencer is a violin prodigy. When tragedy strikes and a mysterious power tied closely to her musical abilities manifests, Etta is pulled back through time to 1776 in the midst of a fierce sea battle.

Her capture was orchestrated by the Ironwoods, the most powerful family in the Colonies. Nicholas Carter, handsome, young, prize master of a privateering ship, has been charged with retrieving and delivering her to the family, unharmed.

Etta learns her fate is entwined with an object of untold value from her past. Ironwood is desperate to secure his future, but Etta must find it first in order to return home. Embarking on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind from a mysterious traveller, the true nature of the object and Ironwood's dangerous game, could mean the end for Nicholas and Etta...
Preparing herself for the most important performance of her short career, violin prodigy Etta wants nothing more than to make her mother proud and earn the praise of her instructor, once a renowned prodigy herself. Readying herself for an impromptu performance, Etta is thrust into an unknown world that is not her own. It's 1776 and she finds herself on board the Challenger, a ship boarded by pirates.

Nicholas is a young man who has always dreamed of owning his own vessel, but due to the colour of his skin has never been afforded the opportunity. Saved from a live of slavery and servitude and now calls he ocean home. His latest cargo acquisition has Nicholas feeling uneasy, delivering Etta to his employer. But as the two form an tentative and socially impossible friendship, Etta's thoughts never stray far from home. Her mother is missing and Etta left behind a casualty of her capture, a life that she may never know again. In order to find her way home, she must find a lost relic in a past she knows nothing of and a family she never knew existed.

Spanning eras and destinations, Etta and Nicholas are destined to be together but secrets will drive them apart.

Kelly's Thoughts

Passenger was a vividly imagined storyline with such depth and heart. From the modern day to the high seas of 1776, readers will find themselves consumed with Etta and Nicholas and what seems to be an impossible romance in more ways than one.

There's one aspect of Alexandra Bracken's releases that you can rely on, it'll take you twice as long as any other book to read. It's not the page count, but rather how much is packed into one storyline to lure readers into her world. Readers are introduced to Etta and Nicholas almost within the same breath. Etta is thrown into his world upon the Challenger and it soon becomes apparent that she's not on board of her own free will. Her mother is missing and she leaves behind her violin instructor, a woman she cares more of the welfare of than her own mother. On paper, Etta is your typical young adult heroine but imagined, she's so much more. She's strong, feisty and adaptable which doesn't sit well with her new peers upon the ship. But unfortunately she's also not all that likable.

Nicholas is a young man that pines for freedom. Bought by the ships captain and rescued from a life of slavery, the colour of his skin within the era means he'll always be the target of prejudice. Sailing is all he's ever known. I felt for Nicholas, he was confident in his abilities but doesn't seem to have the fight against his oppressors. Until Etta shows him compassion. The voyage to New York City where Etta is to be delivered to his employer was slowly paced and often lulled in places. It took quite a few chapters for me to immerse myself and I was tempted to skim ahead. Once Etta and Nicholas struck up a tentative friendship, the storyline flowed but unfortunately a little on the side of being dull.

Sophia is responsible for the position Etta finds herself in. She shares a connection to Nicholas, but is headstrong and determined to work her way into a position of power despite the oppression of woman and people of colour during her time. I loved the diversity. It wasn't added as an afterthought but felt as though it had been well researched and true not only to the era, but also the character development. That feeling of being worthless and knowing that even determination seems hopeless. To hope, to dream of a life that is free from prejudice. Etta introduces both Nicholas and Sophia to the concept of equality for women and people of colour, a future neither character could have imagined. The forbidden romance was barely there at times, but still lovely in places, but sadly I didn't feel a genuine connection between the two.

He would not surrender to the disaster of loving her.

What surprised me most was how lyrical the writing was in bursts, especially from Nicholas' point of view. It added a romanticism and softness to a storyline that needed a warmth and likability. The first half felt slightly underwhelming, too much information squeezed into a storyline that offered very little fanfare, but then slowly the action adventure starts to emerge. The real challenge for readers will be to read through the initial storyline to find the crux of the action.

The Final Verdict

Although drawn out in the beginning, Passenger feels a true to the era historical science fiction based on time travel elements. Feisty female characters with a mutual respect for one another, seeking power and freedom from the oppression of 1776. A cast of diverse characters who are multilayered, but unfortunately disconnected. I couldn't grasp the connection as to why Etta was explored as a music prodigy only to go on a time travelling adventure. It felt unnecessarily drawn out and the storyline could have been condensed into an exciting read, that has sadly fell a little short despite the hype.

Read It! Burn Bright

Burn Bright Night Creatures Book One
Written by Marianne de Pierres
Urban Fantasy, Dystopian
Published March 1st 2011
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Retra braves the intense pain of her obedience strip, and stows away to seek her brother Joel, gone two years for Ixion, island of ever night, ever youth and never sleep. Retra is a Seal, sealed minds, sealed community, no craving for parties or pleasure.

What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? What happens to those who grow too old for Ixion? Without Joel, is her eternal bond with a Riper guardian enough to save her?

Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.

The Other Side of Summer

The Other Side of Summer
Written by Emily Gale
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Published June 1st 2016
320 Pages
Thank you to Emily Gale
Published by Random House Australia
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Summer is trying to recover from a tragedy, but it seems impossible when her family is falling apart around her. Having an extraordinary best friend like Mal helps a little, but Summer's secret source of happiness is a link to the past: one very special guitar.

Now her dad's plan to save them is turning Summer's life upside down again. The next thing she knows, they've moved to the other side of the world.

In Australia, Summer makes an unlikely friend, who seems to be magically connected to her guitar. Is this for real? Has a mysterious boy been sent to help Summer? Or could it be the other way around?

This sweet and spellbinding story about family, friends and believing in yourself will warm your heart.

A Sad Announcement

With much sadness, I just want to announce that my friend Kynndra will no longer be blogging.

Kynndra and I were friends long before we began blogging together, but after I finally convinced her to join me, I know that her heart has never been truly in it. When Kynndra first joined me, I was overwhelmed by blogging and ready to quit myself. It's amazing how your perspective changes when sharing something you once loved with a friend, and I fell in love with blogging all over again.

She's a remarkable young woman who I love dearly and even though we're miles apart in distance and age, Kynndra truly is my kindred spirit. I'm sad that she's finally decided to give up blogging, but Kynndra has always been more than words on a page and I'm excited to see where life takes her next.

But wherever she's going, I'll be with her every step of the way because I love that girl dearly. If I'm ever lucky enough to have a daughter one day, I hope she turns out to be half the young woman my friend Kynndra is, because the world needs more of her determination, her spirit and most of all her kindness.

To the moon and back my darling girl.
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