Book Review: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Feiwel and Friends – Published 25 February 2020

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Synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My thoughts

The Shadows Between Us is deviously, deliciously addictive. I was intrigued by the concept of a Slytherin romance, a story where the heroine was set on murder, deceit and gaining power, but I never imagined being so captured by the story, so entranced by Alessandra’s cunning and plotting, and honestly, even if everything else in this book was atrocious — which it certainly wasn’t — I would have stayed for the romance.

Alessandra has three goals. Draw the attention of the Shadow King. Marry him. Kill him and take the kingdom and the power of the throne for herself. She has no problem with step number one, but the Shadow King seems more set on a platonic arrangement between them rather than marriage as he hunts for his parents’ killer. And as a killer draws closer to the King, Alessandra will have to save the king’s life first if she wants to kill him herself.

Female empowerment. Alessandra radiates it. She does what she wants and plans to give that same power to as many women as possible. And while she isn’t exactly nice, she is fair and never judges. If her friends, or strangers, would rather not act as she does, if they have different plans for their lives and bodies, she is okay with that and believes everyone else should be too.

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New Book Releases March 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

New Book Releases for March 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

Just in case you were about to run out of books (yes, yes, I know, highly unlikely, but you never know), March 2020 has arrived with so many fantastic books to tempt us. So. Many. Here’s my list of top picks for March 2020 new releases. What’s on your reading list? Click on covers for more details.

Children’s Fiction/Non-fiction

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored An Ecosystem – Jude Isabella and Kim Smith (ill) – Kids Can Press – Published 3 March 2020

In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park’s ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves — from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants — and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It’s a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life’s complicated interdependencies.

Children’s non-fiction – Animals, environment


The Lost Lands – Jessica Khoury – Rise of the Dragons #2 – Scholastic Press – Published 3 March 2020

Sirin, Allie, and Joss have joined forces with the legendary silver dragon Lysander, the only creature capable of opening portals between the two worlds. But the powerful Lennix clan is following the children’s every move and will stop at nothing to capture Lysander. After generations of plotting, the Lennixes —and their bloodthirsty dragon allies, the Raptors — are terrifyingly close to establishing a brutal dragon regime on Earth, just like they did centuries ago.

Children’s fiction – Fantasy


Young Adult Fiction

Moment of Truth – Kasie West – Egmont USA – Published 3 March 2020

At sixteen, Hadley Moore knows exactly who she is—a swimmer who will earn a scholarship to college. Totally worth all the hard work, even if her aching shoulders don’t agree. So when a guy dressed as Hollywood’s latest action hero, Heath Hall, crashes her swim meet, she isn’t amused. Instead, she’s determined to make sure he doesn’t bother her again. Only she’s not sure exactly who he is.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary.


The June Boys – Court Stevens (AKA Courtney C. Stevens) – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 March 2020

The Gemini Thief could be anyone. Your father, your mother, your best friend’s crazy uncle. Some country music star’s deranged sister. Anyone.

The Gemini Thief is a serial kidnapper, who takes three boys and holds them captive from June 1st to June 30th of the following year. The June Boys endure thirteen months of being stolen, hidden, observed, and fed before they are released, unharmed, by their masked captor. The Thief is a pro, having eluded authorities for nearly a decade and taken at least twelve boys.

Now Thea Delacroix has reason to believe the Gemini Thief took a thirteenth victim: her cousin, Aulus McClaghen.

Young adult fiction: Mystery/Thriller

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Book Review: The Seventh Sun

The Seventh Sun – Lani Forbes – The Age of the Seventh Sun #1 – Blackstone Publishing – Published 18 February 2020

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Synopsis

Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

My thoughts

The Seventh Sun is a hard-to-put-down fantasy with Aztec, Maya and Egyptian influences. A fight for the prince’s hand, magic that controls elements and animals, and blood protection that seems to be weakening, will one girl’s voice against the rules and traditions that dictate her world be enough to spark change?

When Prince Ahkin’s father, the Emperor of the Chicome people, dies suddenly, and his mother follows the emperor into the underworld, Ahkin must begin his reign. His first step will be choosing a bride to stand beside him. Mayana is a the daughter of Lord Atl, and when the emperor dies, she is chosen to compete for the honour of becoming the empress. But the girls not chosen will be sacrificed for the good of the empire. Ahkin and Mayana share a connection straight away, but Mayana hasn’t told Ahkin of her doubts about the sacrifices and it might change the way he views her.

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Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban – HarperTeen – Published 17 March 2020

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Synopsis

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

My thoughts

Well, that’s how you start a book. Talk about getting hooked. All Your Twisted Secrets, as the title implies, is a thrilling book told in now and then sections about the secrets six teens will reveal when faced with a life-threatening situation. This book is compelling, addictive and shocking – I know teen readers will soak this up.

When six teens are invited to a prestigious dinner as scholarship recipients, they are shocked to discover they are locked in the room with a bomb, a syringe filled with deadly poison and a choice – kill one person or all be killed. Amber knows there must be another way to get everyone to safety, if she could just get the others to stop fighting. But as the clock ticks down, the six must face the events of the past year, and reveal the secrets they have kept hidden.

This book is thrilling from beginning to end. The short countdown chapters are perfectly spaced between the longer flashback sections. I won’t say too much about the characters or plot because the book is so brilliantly done I don’t remember what I didn’t know at the start and what I learnt as each fragment and detail is revealed throughout the book. I desperately wanted to flip to the back of the book to see how it would end and I’m so glad I didn’t. The build up and reveals are worth it. Stay away from spoilers if you can and enjoy the journey Diana Urban has masterfully created. With some important messages about friendship, bullying and social justice, this book has heart as well as guts.

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Book Review: Heart of Flames

Heart of Flames – Nicki Pau Preto – Crown of Feathers #2 – Simon Pulse – Published 11 February 2020

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Synopsis

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

My thoughts

Heart of Flames is the second book in the Crown of Feathers series. This is an amazing fantasy series, with phoenixes (which are even cooler than dragons, if you can imagine that), and a cast of heart-strong and determined characters who must fight for the freedom to be themselves. I loved the second book even more than the first book – we get far more insight into the phoenixes, the complex world Nicki Pau Preto has created, and more romance – though with that ending I am now desperate for the third book.

Veronyka has been revealed as the girl she is, bonded with a phoenix and proved herself in the battle between Phoenix Riders and the advancing Golden Empire that was just the first step toward the promised war. Her sister, Val, who is actually Avalkyra reincarnated and determined to reclaim the throne no matter the cost, wants to use Veronyka to achieve her goal. Tristan is now a Master Rider but no closer to convincing his father Commander Cassian to use his Phoenix Riders to actively defend again the Empire. And Sev has returned to the Empire’s armed forces, this time as a spy reporting directly to Cassian. War looms but there are big secrets that, revealed, will change everything.

The world in which Heart of Flames is based is rich with details of a glorious and horrendous past. It’s all messy and complex. This doesn’t feel like a wonderful magical world that is only slightly out of balanced and in which the actions of just one or two people might be able to put it right again. In fact, it honestly all feels a little hopeless. But that’s what makes this book so epic and the roles of all the characters so important. Veronyka might be special in ways she is only just discovering but she alone could not even dream of creating a secure future, if one can be achieved at all. It will take the work of many and even then, the future of their world, much like our own, will be tainted by the war, destruction and mistakes of the past. There are many characters in this book and over 5 of them share the chapters in this book, but each one is vital to the story. I do admit to being a little confused about the complex history of the lands and ruling forces of each, but the little segments from history books that are spaced between each chapter help to reveal important details.

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Book Review: If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew – Prerna Pickett – Swoon Reads – Published 11 February 2020

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Synopsis

Corey has just been released from jail, and all he wants is a new beginning. But when his former gang comes knocking, Corey agrees to vandalize the home of Kent Hopper, the prosecutor who put him away.

To erase the guilt she carries from getting away with a crime, Tessa spends most of her nights riding her motorcycle. When she catches Corey destroying her father’s car, she doesn’t see a criminal: She sees a way to finally right her own wrongs. So instead of turning Corey over to the police, she convinces her father to give Corey a second chance.

As Tessa and Corey spend more time with each other, it becomes difficult to ignore the pull between them. But they’re both keeping secrets, and when those secrets come to light, they’ll each have to face their demons in order to have a future together.

My thoughts

If You Only Knew is perfect for readers who enjoy the grit and gang-backdrop romances of Simone Elkeles. This second-chance, hidden-secrets romance will have readers anxiously awaiting the fates of these never-meant-to-be characters and the trauma-filled pasts they must face to find hope in their futures.

Corey would do anything to protect his family, even taking up with the gang his father worked for, even taking the fall and going to jail for his least-favourite gang member. Tessa has a privileged life, but she carries the scars from her mother’s abandonment and the shame of the night she crossed the line between right and wrong. When Corey, freshly released from jail, is trapped into vandalising the home of his prosecutor, he comes face-to-face with Tessa. Tessa convinces her father to give Corey another chance as a way to atone for her own sins, and agrees to watch him as he works to restore their vandalised home. But Corey and Tessa have more in common then they realised, starting with attraction and ending with a whole heap of danger.

Can I start by saying I hate this book’s cover. I hope it is changed before it hits the shelves. It just gives it the whole wrong vibe. This is a dark, edgy, gritty novel. It’s about crime, gangs and mistakes. I get that the image is meant to reflect Corey’s graffiti work, but it just doesn’t work for me. Okay, that aside, this is a pretty quick book to read. It has a straightforward plot that is easy to predict and follow. There were a few surprises, especially the leader of the gang – didn’t see that coming! – but the appeal of this book comes from the edgy attraction between Corey and Tessa. Both have made mistakes, both want to make a different path for their future and both feel trapped by their choices. Together, they start to have hope. Tessa has a supportive and slightly abrasive cousin who also fulfils the role of best friend.

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Book Review: Take The Shot

Take The Shot – Susan White – Affirm Press – Published 23 July 2019

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Synopsis

Bug has a secret. Actually, he has a lot of secrets.

1. He’s formed a basketball team at his new school based on a giant lie.
2. His parents don’t know he’s playing basketball again.
3. His new team-mates have no idea he isn’t allowed to play, and they definitely don’t know why.

Bug will do ANYTHING to keep his secrets, keep his new team and keep his life from falling apart. Because no one can know The Biggest Secret of All: Bug risks his life every time he steps out onto the basketball court.

My thoughts

I’m always on the lookout for YA sport novels. I love them, despite not liking sport myself, and we are always keen to add more titles to our library’s sport collection. Take The Shot has a great mix of sport action, complex family relationships and an authentic teen boy narrating the story. If stories about growing up and navigating your way through high school and new friendships, try Take The Shot.

Bug lives for basketball. It’s the only place he doesn’t feel freakishly tall or gangly, where he has friends and fits in. But when he and his father are diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, his mother bans him from playing, saying it’s too dangerous. When he has to move in with his Nan, the change of school gives him the opportunity to hide his syndrome and join a mixed basketball team without telling his parents. Hiding these two secrets takes its toll, but it’s worth it to play. But it may be more dangerous that he realises.

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Book Review: Be Not Far From Me

Be Not Far From Me – Mindy McGinnis – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

My thoughts

Mindy McGinnis has once again crafted a thrilling, edgy, and confrontational book that is as scary as it is compelling. When a girl is pushed to the very limits, what will she do to survive? Unlike many other survival adventure novels that I have read where the protagonist seems to have excellent luck and a natural ability to survive, Be Not Far From Me holds nothing back. Ashley faces everything from betrayal, to serious injuries, and the harsh realities of life and death. You need a strong stomach to read this book, but its brutal honesty is refreshing.

Ashley knows how to survive. Unlike her friends, she knows what it is like to go hungry, hunt for her food, and heal injuries without trips to the doctors. Walking through the woods gives her freedom. When Ashley and a group of her classmates hold a party in the woods, she has a bad feeling. But nothing could prepare her for seeing her boyfriend in the arms of another girl. Drunk and upset, she runs. Separated from the group, injured and outside of the area she is familiar with, Ashley knows it will take everything she has to survive.

Be Not Far From Me feels like it could be a true story. It has the sort of events that are so extreme and so brutal that it feels like it could only be real. Ashley faces some pretty touch decisions as she tries to make her way back to safety.

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New Book Releases February 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

New Book Releases for February 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

Here’s my list of top picks for February 2020 new releases. What’s on your reading list? Click on covers for more details.

Children’s Fiction

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina.

Children’s fiction – Contemporary

Young Adult Fiction

Yes No Maybe So – Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed – Balzer + Bray – Published 4 February 2020

YES: Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. No: Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her. MAYBE SO
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary.


What I Want You To See – Catherine Linka – Disney-Hyperion – Published 4 February 2020

Winning a scholarship to California’s most prestigious art school seems like a fairy tale ending to Sabine Reye’s awful senior year. After losing both her mother and her home, Sabine longs for a place where she belongs.

But the cutthroat world of visual arts is nothing like what Sabine had imagined.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary

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Book Review: The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen – Balzer
+Bray – Published 4 June 2019

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Synopsis

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

My thoughts

The Rest of the Story is the perfect summer read. Or the perfect book to pick up in winter when you are craving summer days at the beach. I’ve always loved Sarah Dessen’s writing and The Rest of the Story was no different. It’s a great blend of summer romance with deeper themes around family, memories and loss. It’s also funny and has a few teen hijinks that will have you craving ice cream, secret parties, and impromptu proms with loads of fairy lights.

Emma Saylor has only a few memories of her mother. When her plans to stay at a friend’s place while her father honeymoons with his new (really nice) wife, Emma volunteers to go and stay with her mother’s family at North Lake. While she visited as a small child, Emma has no recollection of the lake or her maternal family. Her arrival at her grandmother’s house and family-run motel is bumpy. Emma is the city girl who doesn’t know any of the people she’s surrounded with or the lake traditions. But it isn’t long before she is swept up into the big, loud extended family, volunteering at the motel and sharing stories of the past with the intriguing Roo.

Put your feet up, grab your shades and sink into The Rest of the Story. It’s the perfect way to enjoy this sweet summer story. Emma Saylor—Emma to her dad and everyone, Saylor to her mother and now her mother’s family—is an easy character to like. She’s a good girl, a good daughter, a good friend, makes good decisions and tries not to rock the boat. She’s also genuinely nice, so it’s easy to become immersed in her world. Emma also has anxiety, so travelling to a new place surrounded by unfamiliar faces is a challenge. But she finds that she fits at North Lake, fits with the people there and the relaxed vibe, even if she is fighting with her cousin, dodging the wrath of her other cousin’s girlfriend, or trying to get on the good side of her another cousin (it’s a big family).

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