Book Review: The Unwanteds

The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann – Aladdin – Published 30 August 2011

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Synopsis

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination. 

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. 

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

My thoughts

I was forced to read this book. It has quickly become a favourite amongst my book club members and I was fearful that my membership (despite being the group leader) was going to be revoked if I, too, did not read it. I was also intrigued when those same readers said they would rather go to Artimè from the Unwanteds than Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I thought that a) it was obviously a fantastic book or b) they were all crazy. Now I have read it for myself and, while it is certainly a fun book that teems with creativity and fresh ideas, I would still (and will probably always) choose Hogwarts, should my letter ever finally arrive.

I cannot overstate the popularity this book has amassed in the last few months at our school. It has been quickly passed from hand to hand, spreading through word of mouth and recommendations. The middle-school boys have been the driving force behind the fandom, but girls from that age group, and older, have equally loved it. And I can understand why. The Unwanteds is the ideal book for readers – those who value creativity and imagination for whom simple articles of stationary or clay or drawings or anything can always be more than they first appear.

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Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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Book Review: Avenged

Avenged – Amy Tintera – Ruined #2 – HarperTeen – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister Olivia from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but Em isn’t as sure. Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. And now that Cas has taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, Em faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

My thoughts

I forget how much I like to read fantasy books until I pick up a book like Avenged and I fall in love with the drama, romance, and beauty that is a cleverly created world and stunning characters. Life, freedom, and love are hard-fought in Avenged, and it will leave you desperate for book three in this exciting series.

Avenged was rather agonising to read. The characters face a lot of opposition – unjust opposition and that tends to drive me nuts. But it was so very addictive; a real pleasure to sink back into the detailed world Amy Tintera has created.

Avenged picks up where Ruined left off. Emelina Flores has been discovered as an imposter – not Cas’s true match but rather a Ruined. She helped her sister Olivia escape, resulting in the death of both Cas’s mother and father. Now Cas is king, but his cousin Jovita wants revenge on the Ruined. Cas just wants peace and to rebuild his kingdom, but with Jovita challenging his reign at every turn that seems unlikely to happen. Em has been reunited with the Ruined and is leading them with her sister. But while Em wants peace and safety for the Ruined, Olivia is set on revenge, killing for fun as much as freedom. As Cas and Em separately battle for peace they risk losing everything all over again. There are political alliances to make and wars to avoid and each step takes them further apart, even if destiny seems to continually bring them back together.

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New Book Releases April 2017

New Book Releases for April 2017

April 2017 is the most epic month for new book releases. There is something for everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Get creating that to-read list!!! Click on the covers for more information and full reviews.

Adult Fiction

The Hideaway – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 4 April 2017

Deep in the heart of the South is a dilapidated, quirky, and much-loved old home. The Hideaway is a shelter for those who are lost or want to escape society. For Sara, growing up there with her equally quirky grandmother, the Hideaway was embarrassing and as a young adult she quickly escaped to New Orleans to start her own business. Now her grandmother is dead and Sara has been left with the Hideaway, its remaining occupants, and the task of refurbishing the house. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to imagine leaving. She also begins to uncover the secrets her grandmother closely guarded and starts to fall in love with the charming contractor refurbishing what is quickly becoming her home.

Adult fiction: Women’s, Contemporary


Young Adult Fiction

The Secret Science of Magic – Melissa Keil – Hardie Grant Egmont – Published 1 April 2017

Fact: Sophia is smart. As in, certified-child-prodigy, breezing-through-uni-subjects-even-though-she’s-only-in-year-twelve smart. This terrifies her, because geniuses have a tendency to end up as recluses and weirdos – and with her current social ineptness, she’s halfway there already.

Truth: Joshua is good at magic tricks, ignoring most things about year twelve, and not thinking at all about life after high school.

Fact: Sophia can’t even talk to her best friend Elsie about her anxieties, because Elsie is firmly focused on her own future – and on plans that will mean leaving Sophia behind.

Truth: Joshua has had a secret crush on Sophia since forever, but he doesn’t have forever to act on it.

Fact: There are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for … and the messiness of the real world is one of them.

Truth: Timing is everything.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary


The Football Girl – Thatcher Heldring – Delacorte Press – Published 4 April 2017

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running cross-country. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb?

Young adult fiction – Contemporary, Sport


The End of Our Story – Meg Haston – HarperTeen – Published 4 April 2017

Bridge and Wil have been entangled in each other’s lives for years. Under the white-hot Florida sun, they went from kids daring each other to swim past the breakers to teenagers stealing kisses between classes. But when Bridge betrayed Wil during their junior year, she shattered his heart and their relationship along with it.

Then Wil’s family suffers a violent loss, and Bridge rushes back to Wil’s side. As they struggle to heal old wounds and start falling for each other all over again, Bridge and Wil discover just how much has changed in the past year. As the fierce current of tragedy threatens to pull them under, they must learn how to swim on their own—or risk drowning together.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary.

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New Book Releases March 2017

New Book Releases for March 2017

Need something new to read? Well, take note, because March is your month. Some fantastic new releases are being launched into the world. Here are a few that have caught my eye.

Young Adult Fiction

Optimists Die FirstOptimists Die First – Susin Neilsen – Penguin/Random Aus/UK – Published 2 March 2017 (Aus)

Petula knows death is lurking around every corner. She is a pessimist and she knows her vigilance will keep her alive longer. She wasn’t always like this. She wishes she had been, because then her baby sister might still be alive. She carries the weight of this tragedy, trying to keep her family from fracturing further. She has been assigned to the school’s art therapy, where a miss-matched group of teens are meant to express their fears and troubles through juvenile art projects. But Jacob, a new addition to the group, shakes them up, gives them a boost of creativity, and might even bring them together.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary


Proof of Lies

Proof of Lies – Diana Rodriguez Wallach – Anastasia Phoenix #1 – Entangled:Teen – Published 7 March 2017

Three years ago, Anastasia lost both her parents in a horrific car crash while they were on one of their research development trips. Three years on, Anastasia is living with her sister, Keira. But one morning, Anastasia discovers her sister has disappeared and the bathroom filled with blood. The police seem to be doing nothing and, consumed by grief, Anastasia isn’t sure what to do until her sister’s friend and roommate (and amateur hacker) discovers that maybe there was more to Keira’s disappearance. Anastasia begins a globe-trekking hunt for clues.

Young adult fiction – Mystery/Thriller.

Goodbye Days


Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Crown Books – Published 7 March 2017 (April in Aus/UK)

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary.

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Book List: Beauty and the Beast Retellings

Beauty and the Beast Retellings in Young Adult Fiction

It is a tale as old as time, and much loved. Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairytale. I love the original tale, the first animated Disney movie, and I love YA retellings of this great story. To celebrate the release of Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which nicely coincides with Disney’s release of their live-action film, I have created this list of my favourite YA Beauty and the Beast retellings. I have also included a few ‘East of the Sun’ retellings. The only thing I need to make my list complete? A Beauty and the Beast retelling by E.K. Johnston…. here’s hoping.

 Click on the covers for full reviews.


HuntedHunted – Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 21 March 2017

It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.


A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas – Bloomsbury – Published 5 May 2015

Feyre hunts to feed her family. Fulfilling an oath she made to her dying mother, she protects and cares for her crippled father and two sisters. Her family do not value the sacrifice Feyre makes on their behalf. That is, until the night the beast appears at their cottage. He is here to claim retribution for his friend, whom Feyre killed while hunting. A life for a life, Feyre is taken across the wall that separates the human lands from the Fae’s. Now surround by those she most hates and fears, she is trapped in a world of great opulence, beauty and cruelty. As she spends more time at the beast’s home, she learns of his struggle with the blight that is creating destruction across the faerie lands and learns to see the man behind the beast.


Cruel Beauty Cruel Beauty – Rosamund Hodge – Balzer+Bray – Published 28 January 2014

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. Continue reading

Book Review: Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles – Erica Cameron – Ryogan Chronicles #1 – Entangled: Teen – Published 14 February 2017

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Synopsis

In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

My thoughts

Island of Exiles is a rich and epic fantasy, incredibly detailed with superb world building. I am picky about what fantasy novels I read, but this one far surpassed all my expectations and I am now eagerly awaiting book two in the series.

When I was offered a chance to read Island of Exiles I was told it was suited to readers of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes. That’s a pretty high standard to reach, but despite that, I was still surprised when this book was actually really very good. It reminded me in parts of Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels) and The Host by Stephanie Meyer (just the parts about a subsistence culture living in a harsh, desert-like surround, with a strong community focus).

Island of Exiles has some intense and well-layered world building. Every little detail is considered, but there are never any information dumps or description-heavy sections. The new vocabulary in this novel is huge. And yet I never found myself confused or lost. There is a glossary at the back, and while I admit that some of the ranks went over my head so too would any military ranks we use in the real world, so I just kept reading, paying attention to each new word, creature or name as it was introduced. The terms give this novel a distinct Eastern feel and yet the setting, culture, language and people of this book are unique. There are also a whole range of magic powers, a third gender and diverse sexual orientations.

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Book Review: Hunted

Hunted

Hunted – Meagan Spooner – Hunted #1 – HarperTeen – Published 14 March 2017

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Synopsis

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My thoughts

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favourite fairytale. Perhaps it’s because of the magic, used for more than making a fancy ball gown or carriage. Or maybe I like that it is a redemption story, about a selfish man made good. Maybe it’s because the heroine is strong and resourceful but still kind, or because of its similarity to the tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Whatever the reason, I love the original fairytale and I equally love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Hunted has all of the elements of the original that I love, with a haunting writing style and gorgeous setting. It is more detailed and clever than a simple Disney tale, but it retains that ethereal quality, with a sharp, deadly edge that offsets the beauty.

It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.

This story is gently woven, exactly as a fairytale should be. Yeva is no fainting damsel, but she is understanding and kind. She loves her family and wants to protect them, despite being the youngest. I found Hunted to be one of those books that you are desperate to get to the end so you know how it ends but when you near the last pages you want it to go on forever.

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New Book Releases February 2017

New Book Releases for February 2017

February 2017 is another exciting month for new book releases. Here are the books that are on my list for this month.

Young Adult Fiction

Lessons In FallingLessons in Falling – Diana Gallagher – Spencer Hill Press – Published 7 February 2017

When Savannah Gregory blows out her knee –and her shot at a gymnastics scholarship – she decides she’s done with the sport forever. Without gymnastics, she has more time for her best friend, Cassie. She’s content to let her fun, impulsive best friend plan a memorable senior year.

That is, until Cassie tries to kill herself.

Savannah wants to understand what happened, but Cassie refuses to talk about it and for the first time, Savannah has to find her own way. The only person she can turn to is Marcos, the boy who saved Cassie’s life. Being with him makes her see who she could be and what she really wants: gymnastics.

Young adult fiction – Contemporary.


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Book Review: The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter – C.J. Redwine – Ravenspire #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 14 February 2017

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Synopsis

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence that he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague, who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

My thoughts

C.J. Redwine has produced another exciting fairytale retelling that combines strength of character, love, family, resilience, and fighting for freedom despite the costs.

Ari is a newly crowned princess. Her brother has been crowned king after the mysterious death of their father and stepmother. But their thrones come with a serious cost. Ari discovers that her brother made a deal with the Wish Granter, a centuries-old fae who controls the underworld of crime in the kingdom and wants to go unpunished now that he has control over the new king. Ari is determined to break the contact binding her brother and recruits the new, young weapons master Sebastian to help her.

I dare anyone not to like Ari. She is humble, bakes, loves food (and eating), and is smart and kind. She was raised as an illegitimate child of the king, more part of the servants than the nobility. She plays to her strengths. She knows what people think of her and her habits but that doesn’t stop her from being true to herself (or stop her from enjoying regular snacks). Ari is a strong and likeable character, not because she is ruthless or physically strong (tripping over things is more her style), but because she is determined to protect those she cares about and uses her brain. Unlike her brother, I have to say. I wasn’t all that impressed with Thad. If making a deal with the Wish Granter in the first place wasn’t silly enough he remains weak throughout the book. Lucky for him he has Ari.

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