The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk – a Review

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk – a Review

 

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Description:
Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Each of them wonders: How different would my life be if this hadn’t happened? And now that it has . . . what’s next?

 

 

Review:

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk is a standalone YA novel about a group of young people brought together by music, and separated sadly by death. The story follows the POV of three people who have lost someone very close to them. We follow them as they grieve over the deaths that have left them emotionally damaged, with each dealing with it their own way.

Shay has lost her twin sister, Sasha, to cancer, and though she knew this was coming, she has a hard time dealing with her loss.  As she says: she is now ‘twinless”

Autumn lost her best friend, Tavia, in a car crash. She releases her grief by writing emails to her dead friend daily telling her about life without her.

Logan has lost his ex-boyfriend to an overdose.  Though a few months have passed since his boyfriend, Bram, dumped him, Logan has trouble dealing with his deathHe will need the help of a psychologist to eventually help him.

All three of them know each other through music and band, though they are not together to help each other.  Grief is always sad and emotional for everyone and their family or friends.   The story gives us a look at their grief, and how they are emotionally affected by the loss, which also has them cutting themselves from their other friends; as we get to see their pain, anger and at times their self blame.

We also get to meet each of their families and/or friends who are also affected by the deaths, and in time they will each come together in their love of music, and the band that was the link between them.  This is a difficult review to write, as it is a story that needs to be read.

Though at times I did find it a bit slow, the story was very well written, and grief can be depressing.  Even with this subject, Woodfolk did a very good job keeping this emotional story moving and not allowing it to stagger.   I thought this was a good story, though not my type of book.  If you like YA novels with action, suspense and exciting, then this is not for you. 

The Beauty That Remains is a well written story, with an excellent cast of characters that must find a way to get past their grief’s and move forward in life.  Essentially they need to see the beauty that remains in life.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

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The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross – a Review

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross – a Review

 

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Description:
When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

 

 

Review:

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross is the 1st book in a trilogy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, but I am happy to say I loved The Queen’s Rising, and the fantastic writing of a new author for me, Rebecca Ross.  This is YA Fantasy at its best, and a fascinating world created by Ross, which I could not put down.

Brienna, who at 10 years old, was sent by her grandfather to Magnolia House, which was sort of an elite boarding school, but with students who would live together for 7 years to develop their passion  ( art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge).  But Brienna did not excel at any passion, though in her last three years, she mastered her passion in Knowledge.  Brienna has lived in the kingdom of Valenia all of her life, but she has visions about being a Maevana girl.  She has no idea who her father is, and her grandfather refuses to talk about it.  So while she studies knowledge, Brienna, with her master teacher . studies and obsesses over everything about Maevana.

I really enjoyed seeing Brienna with her friends at Magnolia House, as they all were expected to receive an offer from a Patron at graduation. Only Brienna did not.  But a Patron will come forward, once it is learned that she has visions of the past from Maevana.  The crux of this worldbuilding:  the violent king of Maevana is destructive, killing anyone at will, including woman and children. Maevana was always ruled by a Queen, who had magic to fight off evil. 25 years ago, the Queen was murdered, and the Stone of Eventine (which controls the magic), was stolen, and many were slaughtered. Three Lord’s of the Houses in Maevana escaped.  Brienna’s visions are memories of one of the bad guys during that revolution, with clues that could help bring the kingdom back to its glory days.

What follows is an exciting, interesting, and mindboggling journey that will have Brienna finally find out the truth about her heritage, and  bring her back to her homeland.  A war is once again on horizon that will reveal secrets, betrayals, intrigue and a plot that could kill them all. As we raced to the climatic finish, the final half of the book was intense, with us holding our breaths until the very end.   I loved Brienna, as she turned into a strong and loyal heroine.  The wonderful secondary characters that are her friends, family and teacher are created so well by Ross.  Even the villains of this book were created to be truly evil.  

The Queen’s Rising was a fantastic, fascinating, page burner adventure into a magnificent world that sort of felt like old time Ireland.  I cannot tell too much more, as it would be major spoilers.  You need to find out everything for yourself.  I loved every moment of this book, with its amazing characters, history, family, war, and love.  Bravo to Rebecca Ross for this wonderful journey.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

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Everless by Sara Holland – a Review

Everless by Sara Holland – a Review

 

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Description:
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

 

 

Review:

Everless by Sara Holland is her debut novel, and I am happy to say it was slam bang of a beginning.  Everless is a fantasy novel, with a different world building that I have never encountered before.  It is a world where time is currency, and people can pay from their life time (years) in blood for money.  In the kingdom of Sempera, the rich Gerlings and the Queen have the most time, which allows them to live indefinitely.  Their servants are paid through coins of life, and any punishment is loss of time through bleed outs. 

Jules Ember, our heroine, used to live in Everless with her father years before.  10 years later, with her father close to dying, Jules is forced to return to Everless as a servant to help her father.  She has not forgotten her friendship with her childhood crush on Roan Gerling, the now Prince, as well as his brother, Liam, whom she hates for having driven her father from Everless.

Once Jules begins to work on the estate, where she will meet new friends, and discover many secrets.  Jules will come face to face with both Roan, who is betrothed to the future Queen; and  Liam, who recognizes Jules right away, and despite his attempts to make her leave Everless, and stay away from those above her, she continues to try and find out the truth about her childhood past.  Jules has always had nightmares, and also hides that she is able to stop time for a short period; something which she has no idea why, but knows she needs to keep this a secret.

Jules was an amazing heroine, and as she learns more and more about herself and her magic, she becomes stronger, but also finds her life in danger.  Rather than tell too much more would become spoilers.  There are so many twists and turns, with a few surprises that were totally unexpected. Who could Jules really trust? Who was real and who was the evil betrayer?  I have to say towards the end, I was a bit shocked as we raced to the finish, and had me breathless with each mind blowing reveal.

Everless is an exciting & different fantasy story line, which had a great heroine, and some excellent secondary characters.   Sara Holland has done a fantastic job writing this story, especially being her first novel.  I am not a fan of cliffhangers, but this one was a doozy.  Well done, Sara Holland, for your super start in what I imagine will be a great career.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

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Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly – a Review

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly – a Review

 

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Description:
Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.

 

 

Review:

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly is the first book in her new Shadow Weaver series. In Shadow Weaver, we meet our young heroine, Emmeline from the start.  She is 12 years old, with a magical ability of be able to see and maneuver shadows, including her own.  Emmeline is a sweet girl, who enjoys having fun with her gifts.  Her parents are unnerved with her refusal to stop using those gifts, which can harm people.  Emmeline never wants to hurt anyone, just be able to play.  But the secret Emmeline holds is that she talks and plays with her shadow, Dar.  It is Dar, who is able to do things and creates problems for Emmeline by doing things that hurt people, and everyone thinks its Emmeline.  When a visitor comes to her home, she overhears her parents discussing her gift, and the visitor is willing to take her away to help cure her of her magic.   Emmeline and Dar run away, especially after the visitor suddenly became ill.

With the guards trying to find them, they travel through the forest and slowly Emmeline begins to worry about Dar, and the things she has done.   Dar she convinces Emmeline to help her become human again, by performing a ritual, and they can be friends forever.  While hiding from the guards they come across a boy (Lucas), who also has a magic ability, but his is light.  They quickly become friends, and he will bring her (and her shadow Dar) to his home.  In a short time, Emmeline will befriend the family, especially Lucas and learn that they too are hiding from the villain, who was trying to take her away from her home.  She feels safe with this family, but it is Dar, who is jealous and wants to do the ritual.

What follows is an exciting adventure, where Emmeline will begin to see Dar in another light especially when her new friends are also put into danger.  When Emmeline helps Dar with the ritual, everything changes.  Emmeline will have to learn more about her powers to save Lucas and his family from the evil villain who wants to steal all their powers.  Besides the villain, Emmeline will also need to find way to stop Dar, whose has become more and more dangerous

Shadow Weaver was a different type of read, and though considered middle grade, it was a good story.  I did enjoy the book, and if you like fantasy, with young heroes, then you should give this book a try.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

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Ever The Brave by Erin Summerill – a Review

Ever The Brave by Erin Summerill – a Review

 

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Description:
Ever the Divided. Ever the Feared. Ever the Brave.
After saving King Aodren with her newfound Channeler powers, Britta only wants to live a peaceful life in her childhood home. Unfortunately, saving the King has created a tether between them she cannot sever, no matter how much she’d like to, and now he’s insisting on making her a noble lady. And there are those who want to use Britta’s power for evil designs. If Britta cannot find a way to harness her new magical ability, her life—as well as her country—may be lost.

The stakes are higher than ever in the sequel to Ever the Hunted, as Britta struggles to protect her kingdom and her heart.
 

 

Review:

Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill is the 2nd book in her Clash of Kingdoms series.  I enjoyed the first book in this series, but Ever the Brave was even better.   This is a fantasy novel in a world with two factions (Malem & Shaerdan ) that are at war with each other.  Malem, which is now fully ruled by King Aodren, who in the last book, was saved by Britta, our heroine and a Channeler .  A powerful Channeler & Spiriter is magically controlling other Channelers to help overtake Aodren.

Britta, our wonderful heroine, has a connection to Aodren, since she used her Channeler magic to save his life in the last book.  Cohen, is the man Britta loves since childhood, and who is now the Bounty Hunter for King Aodren.  Britta keeps the secret that her connection to Cohen has been replaced.   Before she saved Aodren, she did not like him, and with the connection, Britta will discover more about the man who is King.  The villians (Jamison and Pheia) are still around, and determined to kill the King.  With Cohen on assignment, Britta helps prevent another attack, and together with Aodren, they escape to find help, as the traitors have overtaken the castle.  They will develop a strong friendship that will test the bonds between Cohen and Britta.  Who will she eventually pick? 

Cohen and his team that are trying to find the dangerous powerful Channeler, who has kidnapped the girls, is also attacked, killing some of his men.  He will get help from a friend. Lirra is also a Channlier, and she needed Cohen’s help to find the missing girls.  When Cohen is injured, she will be the one to bring him to a safe place, and work with him to help the King and Britta. 

What follows is a very exciting adventure that will find them all on the run, badly injured and even some dead. Britta is a tough smart and great heroine. She will begin to learn from others how to use her abilities and try to stop the powerful enemies, at a cost that could take her own life.

There was so much going on; you had to keep reading to not miss a thing, and to say too much more would be spoilers.   Will Aodren survive the revolution by an evil enemy, and remain King?  Will Britta survive?  Who will Britta choose ….Cohen or Aodren?

I have said this before; the key to a successful series is to have good characters that you care about.   In Ever the Brave, we have some really good characters;  Britta, a wonderful heroine; Aodren, who I became crazy about as we got deeper and deeper into the story; Leif, Finn, Gillian & Lirra; I also liked Cohen a bit more closer to the end.  Summerill also gives us some evil villains that added to the story line.

Ever the Brave was a very exciting, tense, fast paced story line; well written by Summerrill, with great characters and many surprises along the way.  The ending did feel like the finale, however I understand there will be another book, which I will be reading.  So should you.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

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Spartan Heart by Jennifer Estep – Review & Giveaway

Spartan Heart by Jennifer Estep – Review & Giveaway

 

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Description:
New school year, same old problems . . .

At Mythos Academy, everyone knows exactly who I am: Rory Forseti, Spartan girl and the daughter of Reapers.

Even though I fought alongside my cousin Gwen Frost to save the mythological world from Loki and his evil Reapers of Chaos, I’m still the most hated girl at the academy because of all the horrible things my parents did. I had hoped that this school year would be different, but the other kids just won’t let me forget about my parents.

But something strange is going on at the Colorado academy. First, I run into a Viking guy who dislikes me more than most. Then I notice some odd artifacts in the Library of Antiquities. And worst of all, I start hearing rumors about a new group of Reapers who can summon mythological monsters.

I might be the most hated girl at Mythos Academy, but I’m also the only one who can save it . .

 

Review:

Spartan Heart by Jennifer Estep is the 1st book in her new Mythos Academy: Colorado series, which is a spinoff of her original Mythos Academy series.   I really did enjoy the Mythos Academy series and Gwen Frost.   I looked forward to reading Spartan Heart, and I am happy to say I enjoyed the start of this series.

Rory Forseti, whom we met in the original Mythos Academy series, is Gwen’s cousin and our heroine in this series.   Rory, who helped Gwen and her gang defeat Loki, and now is attending school at Mythos Academy, Colorado.  Rory dreads going back to school, especially since her deceased mother and father were discovered to be Reapers.  As we know, Reapers are bad and evil, bent on destroying humans, and the Protectorate (who protect humans and dangerous artifacts).  Rory is uncomfortable at school, as everyone looks down on her because of the sins of her parents.

Rory is a Spartan (warrior extraordinaire), and in a short time, she is using her skills to kill over creatures that the Reapers created using a stolen scepter artifact.  Rory is than asked to join the Midgard team (part of the Protectorate) and help find whoever is in charge of the Reapers now, and get back the artifact.  Some of her new teammates do not trust her, but once she helps save them, Rory will earn their respect and trust.  I really like her teammates, Ian, Zoe, Mateo, Takeda & Rachel. Most of all I absolutely loved the Gryphons (especially Brono the baby gryphon), whom Rory bonded with when she helped Gwen; and Babs, the talking sword.

What follows is an exciting, action filled adventure that also has some surprises for Rory.  There is also a slow built romance between Rory and Ian that I expect we will see more of in future books.  Besides some of the great characters in this book, there are also some good villains; such as Lance, Drake and the Reaper leader.  I loved being able to see Gwen Frost again, nearer to the end.  Nice touch by Estep.

If you like Urban Fantasy, with mythology, action, excitement, a number of twists and surprises, and a wonderful young heroine; look no further then Mythos Academy, Colorado.  Spartan Heart was a wonderful enjoyable read, and Jennifer Estep continues to write these books so well, keeping us thoroughly entertained. I cannot wait for the next book in this series.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy supplied for review

 

Giveaway

Jennifer is graciously offering an e-copy of SPARTAN HEART to TWO  (2) lucky commenters at The Reading Cafe:

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

NOTE:  If you are having difficulty commenting after logging into the site, please refresh the page at the top of your computer

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. Please LIKE and Follow Jennifer Estep on Facebook

4. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.

5. FOLLOW us on Twitter for an additional entry.

6. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

7. Giveaway open to USA only.

8. Giveaway runs from December 3 to 7, 2017

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Swan Song by Charlotte Wilson – a Review

Swan Song by Charlotte Wilson – a Review

 

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Description:
LOVE AND LONGING IN THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF LONDON

When iconic ballerina Beatrice Duvall died, a nation mourned – and a legacy was born. Sixteen years later, her daughter Ava comes to London to take part in a high-profile tribute to Beatrice, and to learn about the mother she never knew.

There’s just one snag: the tribute is a ballet, Swan Lake. Which is infinitely painful for Ava, because she can’t dance. Won’t dance. Not since she quit the Royal Ballet School last year and walked away from everything that defined her.

But this is London, colourful and crazy, and with actor Seb at her side, there’s so much to discover. Like Theatreland razzmatazz and rooftop picnics and flamingo parties. And a whole load of truths Ava never knew about her mother – and herself.

When the time comes to take the stage, will Ava step out of the shadow cast by her mother’s pedestal? And who will be waiting for her there, in the bright lights?

A coming-of-age novel about family and first love, in the city of hopes and dreams.

 

 

Review:

Sixteen year old Ava Hadley has always lived in the shadow of her mother, Royal Ballet Principal ballerina Beatrice Duvall. It’s been sixteen years since her mother passed away, and she is now in London to represent her family at high profile tribute to Beatrice. Ava realizes that this trip will give her the opportunity to learn more about the mother she has never known. But she isn’t quite sure what London will bring.

Upon arrival in London she is meant to stay with her mother’s best friend,  Thisbe and her two sons – Noah and Seb. But th moment she arrives – everything is strangely familiar to her.  Is she ready to learn things she never would have imagined about her mother? And in learning more about mother, does she find herself? 

I enjoyed the character of Ava from the moment I met her, as she is young, spunky and full of life.  Ava was once on her way to becoming an amazing dancer her like her mother, but she walked away from it all.  Being in London, in the place where her mother was so fabulous and revered,  she learns more about her mother.  She begins to step out of her mother’s shadow and into her own!   Ava explores the woman her mother was, and the reason behind her death, and as the reader, you too want to know.  The story is gut-wrenching and devastating all at the same time;  pulling us in as the story unfolds!

Seb Wright is a wonderful, energetic character. And exactly what Ava needs. When she isn’t sure of her place and where she is supposed to be – he knows exactly where that is and is there to remind her. A friendship that spans the test of time! 

Swan Song by Charlotte Wilson is a wonderful story of finding yourself, stepping out of your parent’s shadows and just being who you are supposed to be!  Highly recommend coming of age, theatrical, magical, ballet romance! I would love if this story continues, if we could continue on with the beauty that Ava becomes. 

Reviewed by Erin

Copy supplied for review

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27 Hours by Tristina Wright – a Review

27 Hours by Tristina Wright – a Review

 

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Description:
Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with her best friend, Dahlia. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn his colony’s darkest secret.

To save everyone they love, they’ll both have to commit treason.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, these four runaways must stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, or the things they fear most will be all that’s left.

 

Review:

27 Hours is the first book in the Nightside Saga by Tristina Wright

This YA book has one of the most complex and diverse set of characters that I have ever had the privilege of reading.  27 Hours tells the story of teens who were raised and brainwashed to believe that the indigenous species (gargoyles) that occupies their colony on a moon in space called Sahara are bad.  The story begins with Rumor Mora who lives in HUB2 with his father being attacked by gargoyles.  While overcome by gargoyles and dragons his father tells him to escape and warn Epsilon the nearest colony.  Leaving his father was one of the hardest things he has ever done but he knows it is what he needs to do.

As we walk through the continuing story we meet several of the teen protagonists.  Rumor Mora who we find out is bisexual, arrives in Epsilon and gets acquainted with an old ex-girlfriend, Dahlia.  Dahlia Adams, who’s mom is chief medical officer at Epsilon is bisexual and trans.  We then meet Nyx Llorca, who is deaf, pansexual has two secrets – the moon speaks to her and she is in love with her best friend Dahlia, yet she is afraid to tell her how she feels.  Jude Welton, a forest-rebel is gay and he can see people’s emotions and intentions as colors surrounding them.  Braeden Tennant, the colony commanders son is asexual and by far one of my favorite characters.

The plot slowly unfolds and there ensues a war between humans colonizing Sahara and its indigenous beings known as the chimera (gargoyles).  The story develops deeper as the protagonists begin to learn that the chimera are people after all thanks to Jude, a forest rebel who dwells among the chimera. The characters are all on the LGBT spectrum hence making this one of the most if not the most diverse book I have ever read.  You come to find out that the chimera are clearly intelligent, sympathetic beings and not the savages that the humans have been led to believe they are.  While having 27 hours to save Sahara they also have time to build relationships and friendships. 

27 Hours is clearly written as a story for our times.  Blending the effects of racism, prejudices along with the many folds of the LGBT spectrum.  I would recommend this to any young adult that loves sci-fi and is looking for a book that explores inclusion and acceptance.

Reviewed by Erin

Copy provided by publisher

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