Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Girls and women

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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Book Review: War Girls

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi – War Girls #1 – Razorbill – Published 15 October 2019

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Synopsis

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

My thoughts

With heartbreaking reflection of the Nigerian Civil War but with a high-tech futurist twist, War Girls is a homage to sisterhood and family forged by the bonds of loss in a detailed sci-fi war novel.

Onyii and Ify are sisters, living in hiding in a secret camp for girls. Both their lives have been touched by the violence of the war in Nigeria. Climate change, nuclear destruction, famine and political unrest have left the country war-torn by battles led by drones, droids and augmented soldiers (those with bionic limbs and tech implants). When a raid on the camp sees the sisters torn apart, they must reconcile their new positions on opposite sides of the war.

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Book Review: The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol – Shamim Sarif – HarperTeen – Published 8 October 2019

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Synopsis

Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.

My thoughts

The Athena Protocol is a fantastic YA action thriller with a whole cast of strong and diverse women who are unafraid to take risks to bring the bad guys down. High action scenes, surveillance with cool tech, hand-to-hand combat and sniper shootouts all with a positive message about working together, family, belonging and righting the wrongs of the world. I seriously loved this book and can’t wait to see where the next book in the series leads.

Jessie is part of the Athena Protocol, a secret group of three highly-trained female operatives led by a group of powerful women. Jessie may only be young, but she has been trained by the best of the best in surveillance, combat, research, weapons, coding, and hacking. Which is why she and her team are surprised when, on their most recent mission, Jessie breaks orders and shoots their target. Suspended from the team, Jessie knows they will need her help as they go after a human trafficker with extensive resources. So, Jessie does her own research and fieldwork, but going rouge means she is without the support of her teammates and when things get really dangerous, she will have to watch her back.

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Book Review: Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh – Flame in the Mist #1 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 16 May 2016

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Synopsis

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

My thoughts

I was enchanted and surprised by Flame in the Mist. This historical novel with an element of fantasy and the supernatural is utterly delightful. I was intrigued by the cover, drawn in by the synopsis and charmed from the very first page. A story about being a woman and embracing everything that entails, even in a world that privileges men. A story about belonging and love. A story about fighting for what’s right.

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Book Review: Sherwood

Sherwood – Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 19 March 2019

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Synopsis

Robin of Locksley is dead. 

When news comes that he’s fallen in battle at the King’s side in the Holy Land, Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on. Betrothed to Robin, she was free to be herself, to flout the stifling rules of traditional society and share an equal voice with her beloved when it came to caring for the people of her land.

Now Marian is alone, with no voice of her own. The people of Locksley, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, are doomed to live in poverty or else face death by hanging. The dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley, and Marian’s fiancé. Society demands that she accept her fate, and watch helplessly as her people starve.

When Marian dons Robin’s green cloak, and takes up his sword and bow, she never intended that anyone should mistake her for Robin, returned from the Holy Land as a vigilante. She never intended that the masked, cloaked figure she created should stand as a beacon of hope and justice to peasant and noble alike. She never intended to become a legend.

But all of Nottingham is crying out for a savior. So Marian must choose to make her own fate and become her own hero…

My thoughts

Sherwood is impressive in every way. From the twists that come from nowhere and endless heart-stopping adventure to the familiar but new cast of characters, Meagan Spooner has breathed new life into this old favourite, classic legend. Sherwood is perfect for fans of retellings or fantasy that focuses more on adventure and historic details. From start to finish this wonderful book swept me away and kept me entranced – I can’t wait to share this with so many readers. It’s going to be one of those books I shove into people’s hands and say, “you must read this, you’ll love it, it’s simply brilliant.”

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Book Review: Cold Day in the Sun

Cold Day in the Sun – Sara Biren – Amulet Books – Published 12 March 2019

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Synopsis

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

My thoughts

Cold Day in the Sun is a fun YA, sport-centred novel with a tender heart and a very important message about equality and the strength and determination it takes to stand up for what you want (and there might be some very swoony romance thrown in as well). I absolutely love ice hockey novels. I’ve never played, never even watched a full game and yet there is something about the cold, crisp setting, the devotion of the fans, and the commitment and hard work of the players that makes this game so alluring in YA fiction. Throw in a story about a girl playing on a guy’s sport team and this novel was certain to be an absolute winner.

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Book Review: The XY

The XY – Virginia Bergin – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

My thoughts

The XY is a compelling and unique work of speculative fiction that asks the question, what if? What if a drastic illness reduced the population by half. What would the world look like? How would things have changed 60 years on? What if the half that was left to start over were all female? What if a young girl, who has only know life in this new era, met a boy, a strange creature she recognises only from history lessons? How would she treat him, how would it change her world?

River lives in a world two generations on from an event that changed everything. When she finds an injured stranger on the road home, she is shocked to discover it is an XY – a boy. When she saves his life and takes him back to her community, it will forever change her life and how she views her world.

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Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury – Tracy Banghart – Hodder Children’s Books – Published 26 July 2018

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Synopsis

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace – selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?

My thoughts

Grace and Fury is a compelling and thought-provoking fantasy – no magic, just an invented world that feels historical and transports you to a place much like Venice – that asks, what would you do if you were a girl in a world where women had no power?

I am a huge fan of Tracy Banghart’s Rebel Wing series, so when a fellow reader recommended Grace and Fury to me I was quick to take up the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this thrilling and unique YA fantasy.

Tracy has a wonderful way of capturing the essence and voice of her characters, and Grace and Fury centres around Nomi and Serina – two sisters, both trapped in a world that offers women very few choices. Serina has trained all her life to become a Grace – a concubine of the King’s Heir, a position of esteem and luxury, if not power. Nomi hates everything about the world she lives in and rages against the constraints forced upon her. When she accompanied her sister to the palace as her handmaiden, Nomi knows she must hide her rebellion and her deadly secret. But when Nomi is chosen as the Heir’s Grace and Serina is sentenced to an island prison for Nomi’s crime, both girls must decide how much they will risk to survive.

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Book Review: The Nowhere Girls

The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed – Simon Pulse – Published 10 October 2017

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Synopsis

Who are the Nowhere Girls? They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

My thoughts

The Nowhere Girls is an important book. A voice for girls, a book for change. It doesn’t pull it’s punches. This book is brutal, and sometimes horribly honest and upfront. At first I was slightly unsure about this book, it’s message, and where it was going, but by the end I was uplifted and reduced to tears. The Nowhere Girls is a book that provokes discussion that is vital for changing mindsets and empowering young women.

Three girls spark revolution at their high school when they create The Nowhere Girls – a group that protests their school’s misogynist culture in defence of one of their previous classmates who was brutally raped.

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Book Review: Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames – Sarah Raughley – Effigies #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 22 November 2016

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Synopsis

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.

When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.

But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.

Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.

Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.

Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?

My thoughts

I love superhero books, so I was excited by the premise of a strong cast of females with impressive powers (and a touch of both glamour and drama) in a fantasy setting. Fate of Flames delivers plenty of action and mystery, and all the drama you would expect when throwing four girls together and hoping they can save the world.

Maia knows everything there is to know about the Effigies, four girls gifted with the powers of the elements to fight the Phantoms that plague the world. Maia just never expected to become an Effigy herself. But with a new villain who can seemingly control the Phantoms, Maia will have to quickly get used to playing the hero, even if she’s not sure how.

The description of Avengers meets Sailor Moon is apt, I think. Especially the part where the Avengers fight between themselves and generally create destruction wherever they go. Similar too is the organisation that seeks to control the Effigies, while keeping many things hidden from them. It’s fun going on an adventure with Maia as she travels some major cities of the world, fighting monstrous beasts (or running away from them) and trying to uncover the villain’s evil plan.

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