Damsel – Elana K. Arnold – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 October 2018
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.
A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation.
From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon.
The Simple Wild – K.A. Tucker – Atria Books – Published 7 August 2018
Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.
Gorgeous scenery, a heartwarming story of family and reconnection and a from-enemies-to-lovers romance that smoulders; The Simple Wild is a contemporary novel that grabs the reader.
Calla hasn’t spoken to her father for years and hasn’t seen him since she and her mother left Alaska when Calla was just a child. When she hears that her father has cancer, Calla makes the decision to travel to Alaska and reconnect with him. Facing all the challenges of life away from the city, Calla is surprised to enjoy her time getting to know her father. Making things more complicated is rugged (yet undeniably handsome) pilot Jonah. While he is counting down the moments until Calla leaves Alaska, she is determined to prove to them both that she has what it takes to survive the wild.
When My Heart Joins The Thousand – A.J. Steiger – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018
Alvie Fitz doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care. She’s spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.
If she can make it to her eighteenth birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be legally emancipated. Free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home.
All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. She can bide her time with him until her emancipation. Humans are overrated anyway. Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is—a boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about.
Her past stalks her with every step, and it has sharp teeth. But if she can find the strength to face the enemy inside her, maybe she’ll have a chance at happiness after all.
When My Heart Joins The Thousand offers a beautiful insight into growing up and learning to accept your self.
Alvie has only another year until she will legally be free – free from fear of being returned to the foster care system, free to continue living on her own terms, free from the continual assessment of others as seeing her as something different, something other. When a young man enters the sphere of her daily routine she is at first shaken, but then takes up the opportunity to prove that even she can enjoy the closeness of others. But her relationship with Stanley is nothing like she imagined. As Alvie faces the challenges of living alone, fights for her freedom, and faces her past, it is her relationship with Stanley that prompts her to reassess everything she knows about herself and love.
Well, that is one intense prologue. Talk about getting thrown right into the story. Actually, intense is the perfect descriptor for this book. It tackles so many important themes in an upfront and honest way. It is intense in an unputdownable way and I greatly enjoyed reading Alvie’s story.
The Undercurrent – Paula Weston – Text Publishing – Published 31 July 2017
Eighteen-year-old Julianne De Marchi is different. As in: she has an electrical undercurrent beneath her skin that stings and surges like a live wire. She can use it—to spark a fire, maybe even end a life—but she doesn’t understand what it is. And she can barely control it, especially when she’s anxious.
Ryan Walsh was on track for a stellar football career when his knee blew out. Now he’s a soldier—part of an experimental privatised military unit that has identified Jules De Marchi as a threat. Is it because of the weird undercurrent she’s tried so hard to hide? Or because of her mother Angie’s history as an activist against bio-engineering and big business?
It’s no coincidence that Ryan and Jules are in the same place at the same time—he’s under orders to follow her, after all. But then an explosive attack on a city building by an unknown enemy throws them together in the most violent and unexpected way.
The Undercurrent is a fantastic book, Australian futuristic, speculative sci-fi at its very best. Paula Weston delivers on action, family dynamics, politics, environmental destruction, romance with chemistry that is off-the-charts hot, and a genuine Aussie-ness that made me feel totally at home among the gumtrees.
Julianne De Marchi knows she is a little different from everyone else. No one else has an electrical undercurrent inside them, a current that seems impossible to control and is deadly to others. The current stole her normal life, ended her mother’s career and is responsible for leaving them so broke Julianne is willing to interview at Paxton Federation -the enemy- to get a job. But when protests turn violent, Jules is forced to turn to the mysterious Ryan Walsh, who seemingly just happened to be in the same place at the same time, for help. The Feds want to know if Jules and her mother are responsible for the latest attack, the Army, including Ryan, have their own interests in the De Marchi women, and the Paxtons are out for blood. It’s going to be interesting – if Jules can stay alive long enough to find some answers.
Breaking The Ice – Julie Cross – Juniper Falls #2 – Entangled Publishing – Published 26 December 2017
Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.
Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner.
But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.
Once again, Julie Cross delivers with a light-hearted, yet deeply emotional story that is so much fun. Sport, romance, coming of age, friendship, family, fears and dreams all come together in a story that lets you sink in to it and happily stay awhile. No matter how many Julie Cross books I have read and loved, still she surprises me with characters that are deeply layered and stereotype-defying, and romance that just knocks my socks off.
Haley Stevenson is failing her high school civics class, still reeling from a relationship breakdown, and is stuck in summer school trying to save her grades. But all everyone else sees is her ‘perfect’ exterior, Juniper Falls Princess and cheer captain. Fletcher Scott is determine to not attract too much attention, working his way to a more permanent spot on the school ice hockey team, helping his father, brother, and grandfather on the family farm, working, and adding a summer school course so he can continue with advanced college courses in his senior year. This summer promises a chance for Haley and Fletcher to look beyond first impressions and to challenge everyone’s expectations, including their own.
New Book Releases for November 2017
What books are on your list for November 2017? Here are the books that have caught my eye. Click on covers for more information and reviews.
Young Adult Fiction
Now Is Everything – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 7 November 2017
Now. Hadley faces the aftermath of a deadly plane crash. There are people investigating, but Hadley isn’t talking, not about the crash, not about life before the crash. Then. Hadley wakes every morning, faces every day with the single purpose of protecting her younger sister. Hadley must get perfect grades, captain a successful lacrosse team, be a good friend, and hide the truth of her home life – from everyone. She never expected to get a chance with her long-time crush, Charlie Simmons. She never expected to fall for him the way she does. She never expected the way he would understand her and become such an important part of her life. But the situation at home is escalating, and Hadley knows she is running out of time and options.
Young adult fiction: Contemporary
Renegades -Marissa Meyer – Renegades #1 – Feiwel & Friends – Published 7 November 2017
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
Young adult fiction – Science-fiction
Run Away With Me – Mila Gray – Simon Pulse – Published 28 November 2017
Emerson Lowe and popular ice-hockey player Jake McCallister have been best friends since third grade but just as their friendship starts to morph into something more, a terrible event occurs that heralds the end of innocence for both of them. Within a week, Jake’s living on the other side of the country and Emerson is left alone to pick up the pieces of her life in a small town determined to paint her as a liar.
Seven years on and Emerson is still living on the beautiful Pacific West island of Bainbridge, helping her family run their outdoor adventure company. The last thing she needs is Jake turning up, bringing with him old memories and opening up old wounds. But Jake—even better looking than Emerson remembered and on the cusp of a bright sporting future—seems determined to revive their friendship no matter how much Emerson tries to push him away and soon they’re in the midst of a passionate summer romance that neither of them wants to end.
But if they’re to have any kind of future, they’re first going to need to confront the past, a past that most people want to stay buried.
I’m a huge fan of Sarah Alderson’s Hunting Lila series, but this is the first time I have read any of her Mila Gray books. She brings to this story the same level of detail and complicated human relationships. There is no shortage of tension, both romantic and dramatic, as the characters fight for each other and themselves.
Emerson’s whole life shattered when she was a teenager. In one day she lost her sense of trust and safety, the support of her community, and her best friend, Jake. Now, seven years later, she is still living in her small island hometown, running her parent’s adventure store and trying to outpace her memories. Until Jake, now a hulking ice hockey star, walks back into her life. He wants to be friends, wants to erase the past, but Em knows having Jake in her life again just might shatter her world all over again.
180 Seconds – Jessica Park – Skyscape – Published 25 April 2017
After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.
One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.
When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.
Wow. Wow. God save the Queen. God save the Queen wow. Whatever that was I was not expecting that. That!!! That mess of human emotions that was so achingly, amazingly, indulgently perfect. I want to read it again. Indulge and fall in love and feel it all again. I melted and laughed and overheated and cried buckets. This review may not be coherent because of reasons. Many reasons.
Allison is starting her junior years of college. She is happy her roommate never shows and is content to spend her college experience as she always has – hiding in her room, studying and blocking out the world. Her sixteen years in foster care taught her to never expect anything, to protect herself and build the walls around her heart as high and thick as she can. It’s safer to keep everyone out, even her adoptive father. Everyone except her best friend Steffi. And then, Allison finds herself pulled into a social experiment, where she unwittingly spends 180 seconds with (unbeknownst to her) social media celebrity Ebsen Baylor. 180 torturous, amazing, emotional-roller-coaster seconds. Her reaction: run. Steffi encourages her to chase after what could be and to be brave, but Allison isn’t sure if it could ever be worth the risk.
Off The Ice – Julie Cross – Juniper Falls #1 – Entangled Teen – Published 28 February 2017
All is fair in love and hockey…
Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.
Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.
It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.
For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.
Confession: I didn’t read the summary before deciding I wanted to read this book. All I needed to know was that it is written by Julie Cross and I was in. I love her contemporary novels.
At first, Off The Ice could have been any teen-y, high school drama, hockey novel. But let’s not forget that it’s written by Julie Cross, so pretty soon the characters started to expand and deepen in complexity, the situation got more complicated and basically it became totally addictive.
I was a little confused at first (probably because I didn’t read the summary) about who our main characters were and how they were connected. Tate is the younger brother of Claire’s best friend. The prologue starts the story and gives readers an insight into the big event of Claire’s last night in town that connects her and Tate. And it’s not something romantic, like I assumed. Instead it is far more complicated and terrible. At this point Tate has his own girlfriend but he has always had a crush on his sister’s best friend. It’s just that Tate was never on Claire’s radar and certainly not romantically. Now, one year later Claire is back in Juniper Falls and dealing with her own family problems. One glance at Tate and she suspects that his problems haven’t disappeared either. And also…Tate isn’t the scrawny kid he used to be.
Young Adult Fiction
Split The Sun – Tessa Elwood – Inherit The Stars #2 – Running Press Kids – Published 6 December 2016
Kit has achieved a status of notoriety thanks to her mother blowing up their planet’s archive. Kit is left feeling both guilt and hopelessness, despite her ignorance about her mother’s deadly plans, despite what the rest of the planet chooses to think about her. But it seems like no one will let Kit fade into the obscurity she craves – not the crowds who lay blame, the government who seek answers, a rebel group of protestors that think Kit might live up to her mother’s apparent glory, her family who only want to take from her, nor the boy who lives in the apartment above Kit. Kit will need to decide what she will fight for – if anything.
Young adult fiction – Science fiction.