Book Review: Throw Like A Girl

Throw Like A Girl – Sarah Henning – Poppy – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince its coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the spring. But it will take more than just a flawless spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charismatic smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

My thoughts

Throw Like A Girl is such a feel-good, girl power (but taking nothing away from the guys) kind of book. I love sports books because of the suspense, the blood, sweat and tears, the team camaraderie, the hard work they put in and those glorious moments of triumph. Throw Like A Girl delivers all of that alongside such great displays of friendship, lessons about lying and the consequences of not disclosing the full truth and swoon. worthy. romance. Such a great book and everything I wanted it to be.

Liv Rodinsky is one of her softball team’s stars. That is, until she punches an opposing team member in the face for an offensive slur. Cast from the team, her scholarship and her school, Liv has to start again, this time on the team of the girl she punched. The coach asks her to display team skills, so when the school’s football team quarterback recruits Liv, she takes him up on the offer.

Oh my gosh I loved this book. From Liv’s fierceness and excellent sport skills to her burgeoning relationship with Grey. She makes an excellent narrator- great friend, good daughter and just a genuinely nice person. But she doesn’t take any nonsense and is quick to set people straight.

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Book Review: Spellhacker

Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

My thoughts

Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.

Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.

Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.

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Book Review: Every Other Weekend

Every Other Weekend – Abigail Johnson – Inkyard Press – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.

Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.

Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.

My thoughts

It is no secret that Abigail Johnson is one of my all-time favourite authors. And she did not disappoint with her newest release, Every Other Weekend. So many teens are impacted by their parents’ divorces, so I know this will be a relatable novel for many young people. Johnson captures all the devastation, hope, guilt and grief involved in family breakdown. All too real emotions, push and pull romance, heartbreaking family circumstances and authentic voices, this book will be another YA contemporary favourite.

Adam and Jolene. Two teens forced to spend every other weekend at a rundown apartment block due to their parents’ separations. But their family situations couldn’t be more different. Adam knows it won’t be long until his family is back together, if only Adam’s father would realise he should be there for his mother as they all grieve the death of Adam’s eldest brother. Jolene knows her parents are never getting back together and quite frankly she’s okay with that. She hates the melodrama her mother puts on every time she leaves for a weekend stay at her father’s empty apartment – empty except for her father’s way-too-young girlfriend. Adam and Jolene forge a strong friendship over the weekends they share. But will that friendship last if their family circumstances change?

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Book Review: The Sky Weaver

The Sky Weaver – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #3 – HarperTeen – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

At the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

My thoughts

And so concludes the Iskari series. I have loved this fantasy series. Three stories which interconnect but feature three sets of separate main characters set against a colourful magical world of dragons, old tales and fearsome gods.

The Sky Weaver is Safire’s story. Throughout books one and two we readers have learnt only a little about Safire. Cousin to the king but never treated as an equal due to her mother’s low standing. Now she is King Dax’s Commander. When a thief steals a precious gem intended to be sold to buy grain after a devastating famine, Safire vows to catch the thief. Eris would do anything to escape the control of pirate Jemsin, including steal precious gems, sneak her way into the palace and even capture the Namsara. As she and Safire go up against each they, they will discover that sometimes the sides are not so clear and the path of right and wrong not so easy to choose.

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Book Review: Deadly Little Scandals

Deadly Little Scandals – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Debutantes #2 – Freeform – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Reluctant debutante Sawyer Taft joined Southern high society for one reason and one reason alone: to identify and locate her biological father. But the answers Sawyer found during her debutante year only left her with more questions and one potentially life-ruining secret. When her cousin Lily ropes her into pledging a mysterious, elite, and all-female secret society called the White Gloves, Sawyer soon discovers that someone in the group’s ranks may have the answers she’s looking for. Things are looking up… until Sawyer and the White Gloves make a disturbing discover near the family’s summer home–and uncover a twisted secret, decades in the making.

No one is quite who they seem to be.

My thoughts

Deadly Little Scandals is the sequel to Little White Lies, and, if possible it is even better than its predecessor. More intrigue, more plots, bodies to uncover, secrets to tell, and twist after twist that you never see coming, because, seriously who else but Jennifer Lynn Barnes could conceive of such an idea and actually make it work. Deadly Little Scandals will thrill fans of the first book and keep readers on the edge of their seat.

When Sawyer accepted her grandmother’s terms last summer, she did so to discover who her father is. Now, after a lengthy process of uncovering long-buried secrets and a little blackmail, she knows but would rather maybe not know. Keeping her secrets from her cousin Lily is hard, harder still to know if it is worth digging further to find answers to the questions she has. When an all girl secret society recruit Sawyer, Lily, Sadie-Grace and Campbell to compete for a position, Sawyer discovers that one of the girls may be key to helping her discover the secrets surrounding what happened the year her mother fell pregnant.

Deadly Little Scandals is a sequel and you must read the books in chronological order to make any sense of the story. Even having read the first book, it is a little hard to keep all the characters straight and by the end of the book I needed a map to fully make sense of it all. That’s just testament to Barnes’ skill as a writer to make such a complex plot work.

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Book Review: Sisters of Shadow and Light

Sisters of Shadow and Light – Sara B. Larson – Sisters of Shadow and Light #1 – Tor Teen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world—including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out—leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

My thoughts

What a beautiful book. Sisters of Shadow and Light is everything I love about fantasy novels. It actually reminds me of a grown-up version of The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels. Sisters of Shadow and Light has so many elements woven together: a sisterly bond that is incredibly strong, a family torn apart and devastated by grief, a barrier between worlds, a magical world with monsters and griffins and magical powers, a fairytale feeling that is both dark and powerful and hopeful and light in the way that only fairytales can be, and some really strong, swoony romance. It’s also a duology!!! And I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.

Zuhra would do anything for her sister, Inara. She can’t take away the constant roar that drowns out anything else for her sister, leaving her unable to communicate and do little more than mindlessly tend to the garden in their hidden citadel, the citadel that once housed the Paladin – magical warriors who rode winged griffins. She can’t make their cold, distant mother, broken-hearted since their Paladin father disappeared on the night Inara was born, care for her sister. She can’t free them from the living hedge that surrounds their home, protecting the from the people outside, but also trapping them securely within its borders. So when the hedge unexpected allows a young scholar to enter, Zuhra risks encountering her mother’s wrath by asking Halvor to share his knowledge of the Paladin and their magic, in the hopes of freeing Inara and herself from the things that hold them captive.

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Book Review: Sick Kids In Love

Sick Kids In Love – Hannah Moskowitz – Entangled:Teen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.

My thoughts

I loved this book. Loved the representation of chronic illness in teenagers, something that usually goes unnoticed in fiction. I love the humour woven throughout the story. I loved the friendship, flawed as it was. I loved the character development, as the characters wrestle with things they should or maybe shouldn’t change about themselves. And I loved the romance. So sweet. So based in a strong friendship. So natural and unforced.

Isabel is ready for her junior year of high school. Her advice column is doing well and she has a great group of—mostly understanding—friends. She spends a lot of time at the hospital, mostly because her father is the lead physician and a workaholic, and also because she has rheumatoid arthritis. When she meets Sasha at the hospital, they connect straight away. He’s funny, awkward, handsome, he shares her Jewish faith and he understands exactly what it means to be sick. But Isabel has a no dating rule. A rule she’s not sure if she want to break.

Isabel and Sasha’s friendship and romance is one of the most genuine relationships I’ve read in ages. In fact, as characters they are genuinely flawed, complex, awkward, realistic characters. They both have a great sense of humour and they bounce off each other really well. I loved how they wanted to just be normal with each other.

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Book Review: A Constellation of Roses

A Constellation of Roses – Miranda Asebedo – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

My thoughts

A Constellation of Roses is a poignant novel about finding your family and a place to belong. With just a touch of magic, this is a realistic novel that is magical in every other way – from the magic of the scent of good baking, to the love and acceptance of family.

Trix has a gift. She can steal anything without being caught. It helps her to survive, especially since her mother left her and never came back. Living week-to-week in run-down motels, Trix is shocked when the police and then the foster system catch up with her. But nothing can prepare her for being told she has a family, that she has an aunt that she will be going to live with. The McCabe women, Trix’s Aunt, cousin and Great Aunt all have gifts, and for once, Trix may finally have found somewhere she could belong — if she can stop herself from running.

Trix is such an awesome character. So strong and brave, yet so heartbroken underneath all that bluster and confidence. I loved that Trix is a good friend. Loved that she is there for people, even if she doesn’t feel like she belongs. Loved that she makes good decisions and is smart and kind, even if she thinks she is not.

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Book Review: Just Lucky

Just Lucky – Melanie Florence – Second Story Press – Published 17 September 2019 

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Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Lucky loves her grandparents. True, her grandmother forgets things, like turning the stove off, or Lucky’s name, but her grandfather takes such good care of them that Lucky doesn’t realize how bad things are . . . until she loses her grandfather and is left caring for her grandmother on her own. When her grandma sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what’s happening any longer, and she is sent into foster care. She quickly learns that some families are okay, and some aren’t. And some really, really aren’t. None of them feel like home. And they’re certainly not family.

My thoughts

Just Lucky is a touching story about a girl’s journey through losing the only home and family she has ever known and a series of foster homes as she learns to embrace her new reality.

When Lucky’s grandfather suddenly dies, it’s not long before someone realises that her grandmother is unwell and unable to care for herself or Lucky. As her grandmother is taken to a care facility, Lucky is placed in one foster home after another. Finding somewhere to belong is hard when you’ve already lost your home.

What you see is what you get in Just Lucky. Lucky is a straightforward narrator. Short, sharp chapters divide this book into easy to read chunks. There is lots of dialogue, and minimal extra details. We don’t learn a lot about life for Lucky before the start of the book and events move quickly. It’s a short book and will be perfect and easy to read for reluctant readers.

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Book Review: Impossible Music

Impossible Music – Sean Williams – Clarion Books – Published 2 July 2019 

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Synopsis

Music is Simon’s life—which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counselled, refusing to learn sign-language, refusing to have anything to do with Deaf culture. Refusing, that is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own newly-experienced deafness.

My thoughts

If music was your everything, what would you do if you suddenly went deaf? This is the question Sean Williams explores in his gritty, upfront novel, Impossible Music. Questions about family, relationships, facing the future and following your dreams, even when they seem impossible, are the focus of Impossible Music. With a realistic teen male narrator, this book is gripping and compelling.

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