Dani is a Brigand: living on the fringes of society and scavenging to survive. The Wardens, an alien race, came to Earth centuries ago and lived disguised as humans until they were discovered. Now they’ve destroyed much of humanity—and are trying to destroy the rest. Then Dani’s brother reveals she’s an Echo—one of the near-immortal alien race who reset back to a younger age when they die, but not militant like the Wardens.
Soon Dani is trying to convince the other Brigands they need to work with the military so they can defeat the Wardens. But Dani will have to learn from her mistakes if she’s to help them succeed.
Okay…it was really hard for me to write this summary, which tells me a bit about this book’s issues: it’s a little too undefined to be completely coherent. Frankly, Dani was kind of childish, and while this is partially explained due to her nature, she never seems to learn from her mistakes and is just hell-bent on doing things her way—no matter the repercussions to other people. I did not find her very likable. And this book felt more like an unpolished manuscript to me: sometimes there are no explanations/motivations for characters’ actions—I can’t relate to people if I don’t have the slightest idea why they’re doing things. And there are several places lacking transitions, where time passes—four months, in one case—with zero transition at all, which felt very abrupt and threw me out of the story.
Cheryl Campbell lives in Maine when she’s not being a nomad. Echoes of war is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of SparkPress via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Seventeen-year-old Corey Ryder grew up in the circus. She’s a trapeze artist, and lives for the moments she’s flying through the air. To everyone else, life in Circus Mystique looks chaotic and strange, but for Corey, it’s home. When they stop in small Sherwood, California, it’s business as usual for the circus, although Corey does meet a cute local boy, Luke Everett, at a diner.
But that night, tragedy strikes and the circus burns. Corey escapes, but finds her entire life in ruins. Instead of her high-flying life in the circus, she finds herself living with a mother she never knew while struggling to keep her circus roots a secret from a town who thinks circuses—and their people—are bad news.
Talk about issues: Corey and Luke both have them in spades. I cannot imagine being in either one of their situations, or the strength it would take to walk in their shoes. Corey’s circus-training workout made me exhausted just reading about it, but the strength in her personality was what carried this book. It takes a strong person to stand up for someone who doesn’t want you to.
Leigh Ansell can be found on Wattpad. Trapeze is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Wattpad Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In Athena Graves’ Baton Rouge Catholic high school, rocking the boat or rebelling can get you expelled. Her riot grrrl leanings are more theoretical than anything, until her younger sister, Helen, leader of the Pro-Life Alliance, is accused of having an abortion.
Helen is popular and pretty, but the rumor leads to bullying from her peers and punishment from the school—while the mean girls who started the rumor get off scot free. And Athena won’t have that. So she and her friends come together to prevent Helen from being expelled because of the lies—and to make their voices heard.
It was a little weird reading a book set when I was in high school. Granted, the Riot Grrrl movement didn’t touch my small country high school back then, but still, I recognize some of the attitudes in the book. I loved seeing how Athena grew from being the shy girl with big ideas to being someone who takes action.
Elizabeth Keenan is a writer, a punk rock expert, and a real estate agent in New York City. Rebel Girls is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Dizzy Doucette lives with her brother and dad above their vintage record store. She’s learning how to spin records, and realizes she has talent. But the one thing that haunts her every day is thoughts of her mega-famous singer mother who abandoned them when she was a baby. And no one knows her mother’s identity, as keeping that secret has always been a part of Dizzy’s life.
Struggling to deal with thoughts of her mother, Dizzy incorporates some of her music into one of her own pieces, and the next thing she knows, it’s everywhere and her secret is out. Dizzy never expected people to react to the news of who her mom is like this. She just wanted her mom to acknowledge her.
I know nothing about DJing and spinning records, so this was a completely new world for me. Spin was a quick read, and, surprisingly for a YA, this isn’t a romance-influenced story (except a bit for Dizzy’s brother). The story is about Dizzy and her struggles to accept her mom and her actions as Dizzy reaches for her future and her identity.
Colleen Nelson is a writer, a runner, a mother, a librarian, and a teacher. Spin is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Dundurn via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Seventeen-year-old Alaine Beauparlant knows exactly what she wants to do with her life: follow in her famous mother’s journalist footsteps. She loves her dad—who’s been there for her through everything since her parents’ divorce—but journalism has her heart. And clearly her mother’s, since she never has time for Alaine.
Then her mother loses it on TV, and in the aftermath, Alaine has “the incident.” She knows she crossed the line, but she’s just grateful she gets to finish the year doing an “immersion project” in Haiti, working for her aunt and getting to spend some time with her mom. Learning about her heritage is great—until she discovers the family curse and realizes her family will never truly heal unless all the secrets are brought to light.
I have approximately zero in common with Alaine on the surface—my parents are still married, there’s no family curse I’m aware of, and I’m unlikely to let my temper make a public spectacle—but I did relate to her so much. She has these huge dreams and the drive to realize them, but she must deal with her issues and embrace who she is before she can reach for her dreams. She’s a vibrant, sympathetic character, and I loved learning about the culture and history of Haiti along with her.
Maika and Maritza Moulite are the daughters of Haitian immigrants. One has an MBA, the other a master’s in journalism. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is their new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Their entire lives, Nor and her twin sister Zadie knew one of them would be chosen to wed the Crown Prince of Ilara, who ruled Varenia, where their people lived. When Nor was scarred years ago, she knew that honor would fall to Zadie, but Nor still dreams of seeing a city, a castle, and everything that happens on land.
Then Zadie is injured, and Nor is chosen to replace her. Now she’ll live her dreams of seeing far places. But Ilara isn’t the place she imagined. Instead, it’s cold and dark and locked in the heart of a mountain. And the Crown Prince is cruel and dangerous—and intent on destroying the Varenian way of life for his own ends.
Nor must learn to navigate the intrigues at court if she is to save her people and unravel the mysteries of Ilara—a murdered queen, a failing royal bloodline—and the prince’s half-brother, Talin, is the only one she can trust.
Crown of Coral and Pearl was entrancing from the very first page. I cannot imagine never setting foot on land, but the culture of Varenia is so vividly drawn that I felt comfortable there. Nor and Zadie’s love for each other, despite their mother’s hatefulness, is so loving and uplifting, and I rooted for everything to work out for them. Ilara is completely different, yet just as vividly realized, and, while I had no desire to visit there, the setting was just as much a part of the story as the characters. An excellent read!
Mara Rutherford is a journalist turned author. Crown of Coral and Pearl is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never really thought much about her roots or her racial identity, but when her black mother and Jewish father split up and she and her mom move in with her mother’s family in Harlem, she comes face-to-face with it. Nevaeh loves this family and wants to be a part of them, but one of her cousins hates that she passes for white and doesn’t understand the injustices their family has to face.
When she spends time with her dad—and his new girlfriend—her dad pushes for her to embrace her Jewish side—the side he never gave much attention to himself, guaranteeing her life at her posh private school becomes even tougher. She doesn’t know which side of her heritage is really her.
Then Nevaeh falls in love and starts to realize she has a voice, a voice she can use to speak out against the hate and oppression she encounters every day, as she embraces her newfound identity and all the joy—and sorrow—it brings with it.
The journey of self-discovery and realization Nevaeh experiences is riveting and the opposition and prejudice she experiences is infuriating. Her entire world has been turned upside down, and she just wants to find where she belongs, but everyone opposes her, making her more confused than ever. The power and strength she uncovers when she embraces her true identity is inspiring and uplifting. This is a fantastic read!
Natasha Diaz was born in New York and lives there still. Color Me In is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Delacorte Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Maya didn’t want to move halfway across the country right before senior year. She didn’t want to leave her school for the deaf for a hearing school, either. She wants to go into the medical field, so she needs the grades to do that, and she’s determined to get them. She’s happy being deaf, but Engelmann High has never had a deaf student, so some of the students don’t know what to make of her.
Beau is the student body president and resident overachiever, so Maya is wary when he starts learning sign language, but it’s nice to be able to talk to someone instead of lip-reading. Maya never thought a deaf/hearing relationship would work, but she’s happy with Beau. Until he starts encouraging her to get a cochlear implant, and she begins to wonder why he doesn’t accept her for who she truly is.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read any book from a deaf person’s point-of-view, so this was eye-opening. So many “little” things I never considered have a huge impact on Maya’s life. She is such a strong, determined character with a solid sense of identity, and she’s determined to make those around her accept her for who she is—not who they wish she was.
Alison Gervais has an English degree she’s not sure what she wants to do with. The Silence Between Us is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Blink via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Franny, Court, and Mykal have been imprisoned for weeks on an enemy ship. Through their link, they feel everything the others are going through. As if being on the verge of death isn’t enough, they are also reeling from the knowledge that they are human. When a mysterious stranger shows up and offers them a way out, they are skeptical—but eager to survive. They agree to help but keep their link secret.
Stork won’t tell them much, just that there’s one way to save planet earth and the remnants of humanity. He offers tantalizing hints at the answers to all Franny’s questions, and she’s eager to find out the truth. But the truth behind their mission—to find a baby girl, the first of her kind, who can cloak and teleport planets—is far more than the linked trio can begin to comprehend.
So…I didn’t read The Raging Ones. (Not sure how I managed to end up reading the second book without reading the first, as that’s something I wouldn’t normally do.) I struggled a bit at the beginning, trying to catch up to the worldbuilding and what happened in the first book, but the story was compelling enough that I pushed through. The dynamics are interesting between the trio, and Stork is an excellent foil for the three of them. There’s lot of action and adventure here, making this a quick, exciting read.
Krista and Becca Ritchie are twins and bestselling authors. The Last Hope is their newest novel, the second book in The Raging Ones duology.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Annaleigh Thaumus lives a sheltered life at Highmore. Once there were 12 Thaumus girls, but since her mother died and then four of her sisters, things are grim in the home. Even more grim are the whispers from surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Her sisters sneak out every night to attend secret balls, but what is the glitz and glamour hiding? When Annaleigh starts seeing ghostly visions and a handsome stranger arrives, she starts to wonder if her sisters’ tragic deaths were really accidents—or something more.
The culture in House of Salt and Sorrows is vivid and imaginative, with hints of fairy tales and legends sprinkled about. I liked Annaleigh, but I didn’t connect with her as well as I could’ve. Some parts of this book were very creepy, and the myths and the gods were intriguing. I’d have to say I liked the culture itself—and the hints of the cultures of surrounding lands—the most.
Erin A. Craig lives in Memphis, Tennessee. House of Salt and Sorrows is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.)