Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Witty dialogue, loveable main character, and a killer plot!

Sal wants revenge for the death and destruction of their village and family, and the only way to do this is to infiltrate the Queen’s court by becoming Opal, a deadly assassin of the Queen’s The Left Hand (assassin group). To become Opal, Sal must go against other deadly killers to win the contest of assassins. I loved the smart, witty dialogue and layers to the main character’s personality. Overall I loved the story, the plot may seem complex but the characters are amazing, there’s depth, layers to the characters which I absolutely love. It’s been a while since I have really enjoyed a humorous, loveable and witty protagonist like Sal who has heart, the smarts and guts.

– NJ

 

Synopsis

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

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Convergence by Marita Smith

An ancient secret… A genetic key… A planet in peril…

For scientist Robyn Greene, her laboratory is a second home. Here she searches for the ancient gene that is supposed to enable humans to communicate with animals. After years of failure, she’s beginning to wonder if the gene is a myth. But when she stumbles across a strange genetic mutation, Robyn’s world turns upside down. In a race against time, Robyn must track down the individuals with this rare gene before the wrong people seize control as this ancient cycle is designed to keep the Earth in balance – in the wrong hands, it could be chaos.

I really enjoyed this book as I found it brought science/chemistry to life in the form of fantasy fiction but I wouldn’t call it Sci-Fi as it appears to be more than that (well to me anyway). This isn’t like anything I have read before. The premise and plot twists were so cleverly executed throughout this book and I found the characters interesting. What was also interesting was how I found myself anxiously following the plot to determine what happens next and in between the story, we learn about well-defined characters and their own inner struggles which did have a relevance to the storyline. Great world building and character development, the story moved along at a brisk pace and the structure kept me turning the page to the end.

A story about an ancient secret, a genetic key, betrayal and paradigm shifting discovery that could either make or break this world.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Fantasy – especially those who are seeking a unique read.

Special thanks to Harbour Publishing House for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book took me through a variety of emotions, one minute I’m laughing and another minute I’m angry and then sad. It’s a powerful and highly relevant read that explores prejudice, racism, coming of age and identity in the modern day through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Starr. This book highlights the complexity of race and identity, police profiling of African Americans and systemic racism experienced by African Americans. This book is deep, it goes to the heart of the issue, it explores gang culture and why it thrives. This book helps build empathy and is educative to those who don’t know much about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as a frank examination of different types of prejudices that exist today. The plot is fast-paced and storytelling is humorous and heartfelt with lots of pop culture references and relatable fangirl loves.

– NJ

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

Kidz Korner Round Up

Here is a round up of our recommended titles for the little tykes who love to immerse themselves in a great book!!!

Raymie Nightingale by Kate Di Camillo
This is a recommended title to the junior fiction fans, most suitable from ages 12+ Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Possum Magic by Mem Fox
Grandma Poss uses her best bush magic to make Hush invisible. But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more. This is a timeless Australian classic.My favourite part of this book was how this fun creative story was able to just casually teach my child the names of Australia’s capital city’s and my next favourites being full of Australian animals and even introducing a few different foods that are unique to Australia. Amazing illustrations filled with very detailed drawings and a beautiful use of colour and shading techniques. Another great book for developing language and cognitive skills in children ages 3 and up.
-Crystal

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham
A beautiful tale of a child waiting and excited for her younger sibling to be born. The child wants to meet, play and get to know her sibling.. Waiting out a storm by the highway inspires a name for an unborn baby sister in a tender. The rain is pouring down in buckets, and Francie and her mom are on their way home from Grandma’s. As the little red car pulls into a picnic area to wait out the storm, the windows fog up, and Francie spells out Dad, Mom, and Francie with her finger. But the back window is waiting for another name, that of Francie’s soon-to-arrive baby sister. What should they call her? I recommend this to children in senior primary school. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Imagine by John Lennon
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
This is a beautiful picture book that illustrates the classic by John Lennon “Imagine” as the lyrics take the page through art, it follows a piegon to demonstrate peace to help us enjoy our life, for peace to flourish and for everyone to treat all kindly, equally and fairly. It was really nice to read this – very refreshing, it also brought back wonderful memories of my late uncle who loved John Lennon and the Beatles. I recommend this to children and families – it’s a wonderful family read that everyone can enjoy. A beautiful message of peace. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

Princess Cora and The Crocodile – By Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca.
Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways. This is a fairy godmother story with a twist. Cora is such a good little girl and does her best to do as her parents ask and deals with her upset well, even when frustrated she writes it down – Amazing right! But when her fairy godmother sends her the solution it’s in the form of a naughty crocodile so straight away I knew this story was going to be cheeky and funny. Without spoiling the ending I found this book to have the potential to start so many different conversations with kids well over the age of even a ten year old. It’s got everything from consequences for actions and how to maybe find a better solution than what the crocodile chose to deal with Cora’s helicopter parents and nanny. Another great book for developing language, cognitive skills and a great potential for discussions about behaviour, consequences and how to communicate – recommend for children ages 5 and up. Many thanks to Walker Books for supplying this book in exchange for my honest review.
-Crystal

Leaf by Sandra Diekmann
When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, the animals fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous—and his habit of collecting leaves only adds to their distrust. Then one day, they watch as he attempts to fly over the water with wings made of colorful leaves, just trying to go home. Maybe he needs some help? The old saying of ‘Don’t judge a book by the cover’ holds true in beautifully drawn picture book. As well as the tale. Within ‘Leaf’ you learn that just because someone looks different from you that doesn’t mean that they are monsters. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith.

Blog Tour: Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

3 amazing women collaborate on 1 amazing book.. This is a must read for all teens!!! It’s the ultimate Aussie Contemporary YA of 2017!!!

Take Three Girls follows 3 students: Kate, a quiet boarder, making some risky choices to pursue the experimental music she loves. Clem, shrugging off her old swim team persona, exploring her first sexual relationship, and trying to keep her annoying twin, Iris, at arm’s length.  Ady, grappling with a chaotic family, and wondering who her real friends are, she’s not the confident A-lister she appears to be. When their private boarding school, St Hilda’s, establishes a Year 10 Wellness Program in response to the era of cyberbullying, the three girls are thrown together and an unlikely friendship is sparked. One thing they have in common, each is targeted by PSST, a site devoted to gossip and slander that must have a source within St Hilda’s.

Who can you trust when rumour is the new truth?

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I’m not a 16 year old in today’s world.. This book covered many issues teens face in today’s world but one issue that resonated with me was the aspect of cyber bullying and social media trolling. When I was in high school, yes bullying existed in the school yard which was bad enough but that’s where it stayed – in the school yard. In today’s world it creeps into cyber space where it effects the home environment and it’s also immortalised. Even if you were to pack up and move away for a fresh start, cyberbullying can follow you.
I felt this book is relevant, important and sends positive messages to all teens through a raw and funny means of reading about deep themes that need to be discussed – effects of cyberbullying, the sense of identity, friendship and even feminism. I loved the format of the book as I was reading journals and a story narrative. The dialogue was intelligent and humorous and I loved the friendship between Kate, Clem and Ady and regardless of how diverse they were in social status, background or current issues, the wellness program brings them together and it was just great to read about.
  A great book… A fantastic collaboration of 3 female Australian authors.. I would have to say this is the ultimate Aussie YA Contemporary of 2017!!!
Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for inviting me to be part of this Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: Allen and Unwin Publishers

An interesting book that I flew through in a matter of hours.

What starts off with character profiling and world building, I thought this would be a crime/thriller – a case of ‘who done it’? – however, it sends you on a rollercoaster ride to something completely different.

The book is told in various perspectives however it focuses on Jazmin Little who has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared – however, Becky didn’t just disappear – she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground!!! Like she simply vanished into thin air!! Since Becky’s disappearance, the question remains – did Jazmin have something to do with her friend’s disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus? an infamous character you get to know as you read the book.

A short book approx. 215 pages, It had a futuristic Frankenstien vibe to this story. The characters’ voices were projected quite well throughout the story though some of the dialogue got a little annoying – I guess teenagers communicate a little differently these days. As the story goes on, I found myself turning the page wanting to know what happens next and where all of this “mess” was coming from. I can definitely see a sequel coming out of this one. I liked the plot and how we get to know each character by the page – the story isn’t an info dump, it progresses and the plot thickens at each turn. I recommend this to fans of YA Sci-Fi and Thrillers.

Special thanks to Allen dnd Unwin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Because you Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy Edited by Ameriie

An awesomely unique compilation of 13 short stories written by brilliant authors from around the world and collaborated with influential booktubers.

I say this is unique as these short stories are from the perspective of misunderstood villains and are written by fantastic authors as challenged by influential booktubers. What I enjoyed most about this book was the short stories that were entertaining as well as the short pieces written by the book tubers when they challenged the authors to write a short story on various themes. The pieces were that good, I can see these booktubers publishing their own books one day. This was one anthology I struggled to pin point a favourite as they were all pretty good, I also found it interesting to see a villain’s perspective as it gives you an idea as to why they were ‘tipped over the edge’ and moved over to the dark side. I would highly recommend this to fans of YA or if any of the noted authors are your ‘autobuy’ author, they wont disappoint in this fabulous compilation. Once again, I didn’t read this from beginning to end – I bounced around various authors starting with my favourites (lol). It’s quite different and a lot of fun to read!!

Edited by international popstar, now writer, Ameriie, the authors who teamed up for this compilation feature: Renee Ahdieh, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon. The Booktubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zo Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie