Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla

A powerful, gripping book about 4 teens who standing up for themselves and their community.

Hari and Jamal film an unarmed youth from their estate being beaten by police and suddenly they find themselves hunted by the very people who should be protecting them. But as they go on the run with Hari’s twin sister, Taran, and Jamal’s girlfriend, Anna, they soon discover the truth goes much deeper, with terrible personal consequences at hand..

I found this to be a fast paced, action packed thriller of a story that I believe to be The U.K’s answer to “The Hate U Give” (THUG). A story that explores social injustice at the hands of corruption, and rogue police. A story that turns the lives of 4 teens upside down when they become privy to too much information and the decision they need to make – either stay silent and go on the run or take a stand and have justice prevail. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, the dialogue between the characters and I even came to care for the characters we followed. The book’s structure was also well done as it was following a time line (as in time of day) rather than chapters so it really brought the story to life for me. To be honest, I really hope this story is adapted to film as I believe it would be well received by the YA reader community. I recommend this book to readers of YA who enjoy suspense, action and is interested in reading stories that explore deep themes such as social injustice and community.

Special thanks to Date A Book YA (Hachette) Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

A dark tale you wont forget in a hurry

Princess Lira is a siren of royal blood and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. As punishment for this crime, The Sea Queen (Lira’s mother) transforms Lira into a human, robbed of her song and has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. As for Prince Elian, the ocean is the only place he calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than a hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of the siren kind for good—But can he trust her?

This book felt like reading The Little Mermaid meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Mr & Mrs Smith (yes please forgive me for doing that). This is definitely a dark fairytale retelling that is written very well and easy to follow even with the dual perspectives as you can easily differentiate between the characters as the story progresses.  It’s reasonably paced and what I enjoy the most is how steady relationships develop throughout the story among the characters. It keeps you engaged from the first chapter. I recommend this book to readers who, like me, enjoy fairytale retellings or love fantasy fiction stories set at sea.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

A story of obsession and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness and the devastating result of a exposed secret – a story that follows 4 Y.A obsessed friends who befriend their favourite Y.A author…….

The Characters we follow: Miri, Soleil, Penny and Jonah are obsessed with Y.A author, Fatima Ro who is the author of a book called ‘Undertow’. As Fatima is in town for a signing, these 4 teens have the ultimate chance to meet Fatima and suddenly find themselves friends with her an learning the art of ‘human connection’. As friendship progresses, trust is built and each person finds themselves divulging deep dark secrets about themselves.. As a result, Fatima has written another book – a book that features each character and the secrets they divulged!!

This book was an addictive jig-saw puzzle like no other and very true to its time with teen excessive use of social media and technology. The book was structured in a very unique way that makes it an incredibly fast paced read and  each phase of the story just added another piece of this unravelling jigsaw puzzle. I enjoyed how it’s part interview, part book within a book and it pieces together what really happened to the characters that are used in theunderlying story that prevails throughout this book. There are some dark themes covered in this book that does make you feel for the characters. I also found it interesting how each character responded and dealt with this new book their idol had written after forming what they felt to be a strong friendship they formed with their favourite author.

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Annie

Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Publisher: Hachette – Date.A.Book YA

With foreword by James Patterson, this epic Western Dystopian presents a bold new heroine. Meet Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s Wild, Wild West…

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity (Pity) Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and the perfect aim. set in the West that is now wild post a Second Civil War that breaks what was The U.S, it is now a savage place. When Pity takes a stand for her own freedom, she finds herself in being offered a life of fame and fortune in division called ‘Cessation’ – A glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life.

A wild, western dystopian like none I have ever read before!!! I loved this book!!! So the first couple of chapters are mildly paced to set the scene then suddenly – BAM! – it goes off in chapter 4 and propels forward ever since!! What I loved about this book besides its action packed adventure was the unique setting and the main character we follow, Serendipity “Pity” Jones who takes a stand against the world she once knew and escapes only to find herself on a dangerous path where the one card Pity has up her sleeve is the one card she is hesitant to use: her unbelievable shooting skill. The ever changing plot twist throughout this book kept me guessing, turning the page and towards the end, I was still questioning who can I trust – some shady characters in this story!! A book that is action packed, humorous with mild romance and captivating plot – dystopian fans.. you really should give this one a go!!

-Annie

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe: Book 1) by Neal Shusterman

Thou shalt kill

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

This book is amazingly good! One of my favourite 2018 YA sci-fi read! Imagine a world where we’re so advanced that we cheated death and are immortal but in order to control the population growth, people have to be randomly killed off. The only people with that privilege to kill or grant immunity from death is if you’re a scythe. Therefore being a Scythe is both revered and feared.

This is a jam packed action book following two teenagers Citra and Rowan who became scythe apprentices, they must learning the art of killing but before all that they must learn to understand humanity, morals and humility. There’s politics, friendships and love on the line, and a deadly political competition to determine who will become the new Scythe and who will be gleaned. It’s a morbidly fascinating fast pace read with lots of plot twists. It’s so different to what I had expected!!!

I am now reading the sequel – keep an eye out for it!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me review copies of these books
-NJ

The Continent by Keira Drake

Vaela Sun is a young girl from a prestigious family aspires to be a cartographer. For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two nations remain perpetually locked in combat. Most citizens lucky enough to tour the Continent do so to observe the spectacle and violence of battle, a thing long vanished in the peaceful realm of the Spire however for Vaela, the war holds little interest as she sees the journey as a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land. But what starts as a sight-seeing adventure soon turns into her fight for survival as she is sucked into the combat between the two nations on The Continent.

I heard about this book some time ago and heard of its controversy. I was later informed this entire book was rewritten and sensitivity readers were hired for the edits. Given the effort applied to this book, I thought I would give this a chance and keep an open mind whilst reading it. I also kept in mind the question I always keep in mind when reading “is it in context”? For example: when a racist remark is in the dialogue between characters – is it portraying a character as racist and are those comments exactly what a racist character would say? etc which brings out the character quite clearly rather than a story just being offensive. What I took from this is it’s about a young girl who dreams to be a cartographer and lives in the Spire, an elite federation and was given a rare opportunity to explore the mysterious continent – a place known for civil disruption and war. What starts off as an expedition soon turns into a struggle for survival. To me, the plot and dialogue made sense and the way in which the protagonist responded to her situation clearly demonstrated how a young girl from an elite federation would respond when trapped in foreign lands and there is a significant language barrier. I found the story had more focus on the character’s feelings, though there is a lot of action (it is quite violent so I would say more suited to an older YA audience) and a relatively detailed pace but not too overly descriptive. The world building was structured well so you can picture all areas in the story.

Special thanks to Harlequin Teen Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

-Annie

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Welcome to Caraval… Beware of getting swept too far..

Scarlett Dragna and her sister Tella Dragna have never left their tiny island of Trisda. Having lived under the rule of an iron fist that was their father, Governor Dragna, their lives have been nothing of dark days – any time Scarlett was do something, Tella would cop it and vice versa however now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval — the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s life long dreamt invitation finally arrives and with the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella and Scarlett go away to the show yet once they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer: Legend and this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

This suspense in this book really sucked me in. It felt like two movies I have seen: “The Game” meets “The Illusionists” and while this book was set on an island and a game where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred, I imagined this to be a sick, twisted circus or carnival I never want a ticket to. It was very easy to read and whilst the plot kept us in suspense – particularly on the true identity of some of the characters like the mysterious sailor, Legend, among others, the story was quite fast paced. I admired the sibling love between Tella and Scarlett yet it also frustrated me. The twists throughout the story also kept me turning the page and it was one of those stories you feel are predictable but they’re not. I thoroughly enjoyed this more than I expected to. I recommend this to readers who seek stories to leave their world behind – just try not to get too swept away!!!

-Annie