The Gilded Cage
– Lynette Noni –
The Prison Healer #2
Published 12 October 2021
Lynette Noni seems to take pleasure in her readers’ pain. That’s the only explanation for the cruel ending and the build up in this book that had me putting down the book and needing time away to just breathe and recover and psych myself up again for more torment. But it’s a good pain. Sometimes.
The Gilded Cage is the second book in The Prison Healer series. It picks up soon after the first book concluded. Kiva and Jaren have escaped Zalindov. Kiva and Tipp have moved into the River Palace with Jaren and his family. It’s a whole other world from the despair of the prison that was her home for so many years. While Jaren is ready to lay the world at Kiva’s feet – including fulfilling her dream of training at Silver Thorn healing academy, now Kiva is out of prison, she has the opportunity to reconnect with her brother and sister and rejoin the rebellion. Kiva is torn between her growing feelings for Jaren and his family and the knowledge that he will make a good king and her loyalty to the rebellion cause, seeking justice for her father and brother and fighting alongside her siblings.
The Endless Skies
– Shannon Price –
Published 17 August 2021
If you are looking for a unique fantasy novel, then check out The Endless Skies by Shannon Price. The Endless Skies invites readers into a world where shapeshifting warriors who live on a city that floats in the sky and a community of shapeshifting magical beings protect themselves from the humans who seek to destroy all they know.
You might assume Endless Skies is all about Rowan from the book’s synopsis, but Endless Skies is actually written from three characters’ perspectives. Rowan is a narrator and she is joined by her sister and her best friend. Rowan is a warrior-elect. She has completed years of rigorous training and is about to be sworn in by the king to become an official warrior. Shirene is Rowan’s older sister. She is a sentinel and has just been named as the King’s Hand – a prestigious position of respect and authority. Rowan’s friend Callen is a warrior. He has long hidden his true feelings about Rowan from her, but now he fears it might be too late. On the eve of Rowan’s warrior oath-taking ceremony, the warriors learn of a deadly disease that is targeting the children of Heliana. Teams of warriors are called and sent down to the human world to look for a cure before the prince falls ill, which could be the literal downfall of Heliana. Left behind by her friend and sister, Rowan learns there is far more at stake than what the citizens are being told about the disease and the long-held feud between the Leonodai and humans.
There is a very unique world in The Endless Skies and yet with so much action and so much going on in the book, I feel like I only saw snippets. There are four magical shapeshifting communities, the Leonodai being our main focus in this book. There was also a fifth, but they were wiped out by humans. Rowan is a Leonodai and can change from female human form to a winged lioness. Cool magic enables her weapons and armour to change with her. Her community values loyalty over all and Rowan, Shirene and Callen have committed themselves to serving their city and their king. Their city, Heliana floats above the ocean, protected from the human’s reach and they in turn protect the other shapeshifting communities. While the Leonodai fight with blades, arrows and axes, the humans fight with guns, bullets and late, planes and battleships, which gives a unique mix of modern (or at least the 20th century, the human world has a very WW1 timeline feeling to it) and ancient warfare and a great mix between reality and magic, that we don’t often see in fantasy novels.
– Elayne Audrey Becker –
Published 31 August 2021
I don’t read fantasy novels all that often, but when I do I usually adore them. Forestborn was no different. It is an incredible quest novel. Our three main characters must travel together through perilous terrain, facing the things that haunt them and the pain from their past to find the rarest of magical powers to save the people they love. There is royalty, magic, very cool unique magical creatures, haters-to-lovers romance and a fantastic twist that I just didn’t see coming.
The magic in this book is unique, which I liked, as were the many magical creatures that pop up throughout the story. Rora is a shifter. As is her brother. Over time, Rora has shifted into her three different animal forms, mouse, hawk and lynx. Her brother has yet to shift into his third form. After their parents were killed along with all the other shifters in their village, the two siblings survived on their own in the magical forest, before finally finding refuge in Teylan. Now, Rora works for the king, but she and her brother have never really been accepted by the humans that surround them. When a magical plague that is killing humans gets worse and Rora’s best friend Prince Findley falls ill, Rora, her brother and the elder Prince Weslyn journey into the magical forest to find stardust in the hope it will cure the disease.
What begins as a simple but dangerous quest morphs into a much bigger plot, with a nice twist. War looms and there are biggest politics and more at stake than we readers and the characters realise at the start of the book.
Let It Be Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 May 2021
Having graduated college at 18, Sebastian Grant has continued to leverage his intelligence and determination to become a pediatric heart surgeon. The more accolades he receives, the more he’s driven to pursue. Then he meets high school math teacher Leah Montgomery, and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop.
Solving advanced math equations by the age of five, Leah has always wanted to pursue a PhD in mathematics. She willingly put that dream on hold to raise her brother. Now that he is of age, she’s set on avoiding any obstacles to her goal–including romance.
When Leah receives surprising news in the process of taking a test for tracking her ancestry, she asks Sebastian to help her comb through aged hospital records to learn more. Soon his presence isn’t so easily ignored. But when Sebastian learns his best friend also has feelings for Leah, he begins to question his resolve to win her. Attaining their deepest desires may require more sacrifices than they ever imagined.
Let It Be Me is another heartwarming contemporary, Christian romance from Becky Wade. Like her previous book, Let It Be Me features one of the Miracle Five, five teens who had been miraculously saved after a building collapsed on them during an earthquake. Now adults, we follow them as they sort through their past hurts and journey on the road to love. This time it’s Sebastian’s turn.
Sebastian is a gifted surgeon. After the events of the earthquake, he turned his life around. Drawn into the Coleman family, he didn’t let being a foster kid define him. They saved him and offered what he most wanted – to belong. That’s way he would do anything for his best friend and closest person he has to family, Ben Coleman. When Sebastian meets and is instantly drawn to Leah Montgomery, he knows he has to get to know her better. The one problem is that it’s the same Leah Ben has been crushing on for two years. Sebastian does the right thing and withdraws but when Leah asks for his help to untangle a mystery involving DNA and hospital logistics, they spend more time together and Sebastian finds it increasingly difficult to stay honourable to his best friend.
I think this book has one of the few love triangles I’ve truly enjoyed. Maybe that’s because all along Leah has no feelings but those of friendship for Ben and it’s so clear that she and Sebastian are perfect for each other. Everyone is respectful of the other and mindful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. There is an intense connection between Sebastian and Leah but there are many obstacle in the path, firstly Ben and Sebastian’s duty of friendship but also Leah’s desire to remain single and Sebastian’s own habit of not getting to close to people.
Bookshop By The Sea – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 April 2021
After her mother was bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie became a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a book shop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.
But now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth just got a new job, the family house is sold, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance to run an extreme sporting business in Florida.
Much to Sophie’s chagrin, seeing Aiden again resurrects familiar feelings—which she promptly tries to bury in the tumult of the day. As soon as the wedding crowd fades, Sophie turns her focus back to establishing her beloved bookstore.
But then an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove and with the hotels booked to capacity he asks Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. But can Sophie trust Aiden to stick around? And does daredevil Aiden have the courage to risk his heart?
Once again Denise Hunter has penned a delicious contemporary romance novel that I just devoured. Honestly, I read it so quickly I think I need to go back and read it again, at least a few times over.
Bookshop By The Sea is a charming second-chance romance. Sophie and Aiden are our main characters. High-school sweethearts, they thought their future was set, but when Sophie’s mother fell ill and her father abandoned the family, Sophie had to step up and become the glue to hold everything together. At the same time, Aiden was offered a chance to start his own company and he too left Sophie. Now, years later, Sophie and Aiden are reunited at Sophie’s younger sister’s wedding. Sophie just wants to get through the event and move on but Aiden wants to use the opportunity to ask for Sophie’s forgiveness. Of course, we readers know that Sophie and Aiden are not over yet.
Once Sophie and Aiden make it through the wedding they think their awkward reunion is over but a storm bearing down on the area has other ideas. They are forced to hole up together in a guest house – cue the swooning. It offers readers all the time they need to enjoy the softening of Sophie’s heart and Aiden realising that everything he walked away for was not worth losing the woman he loves.
Catch A Falling Star – Meg McKinlay – Walker Books Australia – Published 1 March 2019
It’s 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things 12 year old Frankie thought she had forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only … did he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading for calamity.
Catch A Falling Star is a beautiful middle-grade novel about family, grief and growing up. Authentic Australian setting, a compelling mix of historic events and astrology, and characters who are easy to love.
Now, don’t hurt me, but do I put this under historical fiction? It is set in Australia in 1979. While the author takes some liberties with timing and of course a fictional family and characters, the story is based around the true events of the falling of Skylab. An open timeline of when exactly it was going to fall left the world guessing about when and where it would come down. Media went crazy, people were worried about being hit and this is all brought into the story.
The Dog Runner – Bren MacDibble – Allen and Unwin Children’s – Published 4 February 2019
Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you’ve got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people…
What a superb, beautifully written book. Thought-provoking and action filled, The Dog Runner is an Australian, middle grade novel that is dystopian fiction at its finest. This will be sure to please teen readers and make for a fantastic class novel.
I loved every page of this book. I was a little worried about the dogs. As a dog lover, I don’t usually read books about dogs – I can’t handle any injuries or death. I am very happy to say (any maybe it’s a spoiler, but I think it’s important to share) that aside from a small injury none of the dogs are harmed or die. This book has a dog-happy ending. Can’t say the same for some kangaroos, snakes, possums or other small creatures. For those who don’t like hunting or animal deaths, there are quite a few descriptions of killing and preparing animals for food. It’s done with care, but with details.
MacDibble presents a society and world in which grass crops have all failed and animal farming has been destroyed. People in the cities and suburbs are fighting for food, waiting for deliveries from the government that aren’t coming. People are looting and rioting and gangs are roaming.
Lake Season – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 November 2019
When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic home back into an inn.
Adam Bradford (a.k.a. bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive author with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to a North Carolina lake town, the setting of his next novel. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.
When Molly finds an old letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But the guest she invites along has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.
Lake Season is the latest romantic novel by Denise Hunter. It is the first book in a new series, and this one starts the series off with a good helping of romance, history, and family. It’s a sweet story and well worth enjoying.
When Molly’s parents die in a car crash, she and her two siblings commit to finishing their parents’ dream — the refurbishment of their home as an inn. In the midst of final preparations, an unexpected guest arrives and Molly doesn’t have the heart to turn him away. Little does she know that the shy, unassuming Adam Bradford is actually Molly’s favourite author, Nathaniel Quinn. When they find a 50-year-old letter hidden in the walls, Molly recruits Adam to help her track down the intended recipient.
Fan The Fame – Anna Priemaza – HarperTeen – Published 20 August 2019
Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.
SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.
ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.
The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.
Fan The Fame is a relatable novel about responsibility, doing and saying the right thing and speaking up – or choosing not to. With three distinct character perspectives and voices, this is a clever and thought-provoking novel.
Lainey: not much into gaming. Her brother is a huge YouTube star and she can’t quite understand why so many people subscribe to his videos when he so racist, sexist and rude. Working for Cody, aka Codemeister, this summer means carting around his video gear at the gaming conference and seeing his jerkiness up close.
ShadowWillow: an up and coming successful, and very good, female gamer and streamer. When her fans start shipping her with Codemeister, she knows joining someone so famous would really up her subscriber numbers.
SamTheBrave: young gamer with not many subscribers, but hilarious jokes. Feels like the gaming world is the one place he might actually belong. Also wants to get the attention of Codemeister at the conference.
Even If I Fall – Abigail Johnson – Inkyard Press – Published 8 January 2019
A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.
When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.
But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.
I absolutely love picking up books by Abigail Johnson because I know that I will adore them. They put your through an emotional wringer but they never disappoint. Such is true of her latest title, Even If I Fall. Stunning and heartfelt writing combine with an incredible story of loss, anger, guilt and family breakdown. A story about things you can’t explain much less come to terms with. A story of hope and love, friendship and support. Even If I Fall will entrance readers; perfect for fans of emotional contemporary YA fiction.