macmillan-sword and verseRaisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Hardcover, 384 pages  Published January 19th 2016 by HarperTeen   0062324616 (ISBN13: 9780062324610)

This story ended up being something completely different from what I was thinking it would be. With the title of “Sword and Verse” I was going into the story expecting there to be a lot of fighting, war….well swords. But the usage of the word was unexpected. The book focuses more on knowledge and the privilege of reading and writing.

Raisa is chosen to be a tutor, one of the highest positions that  slave can obtain. This title gives her access to the castle and luxuries most slaves could never imagine. It also places her in the same room as the prince for several hours a day, practising their writing. It is not long before a romantic element arises and they begin a romantic relationship that could see her killed if ever they were found out.

When the prince is to become King and becomes engaged, the relationship fades. There have been uprisings and the people of the kingdom desire to learn the language of the Kings. Believing the way out of their slave-hood is knowledge, they approach Raisa to help their cause. Now Raisa has two reasons to fear for her life. She is stuck between the boy she loves and her people.

The story really focuses on two things: the love between Raisa and the Prince, and the power of language and writing. Raisa feels a powerful draw to writing because it links her back to her childhood and the time spent with her father.

There is a lot of drama in the story as her situation is very dangerous. The longer she stays in her position, the more she finds herself torn between her people and her love for the prince.

I went into the story expecting a very fast-paced, war-ridden kingdom. What I got was a romantic love story about a girl who falls hard for a charming man, and the desire of people to learn. What I loved about the book, and the reason I would recommend it to others, is the battle that Raisa fights within herself. She is a very smart and witty character who has to work her way through several very fraught situations and stay strong when others challenge her. I found her to be very truthful and devoted to what she believes in.

I found that after finishing the story, it still sticks with me; it is something I will read again and recommend to others who like a good dramatic romance.


Key-bottle creekIn this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort’s father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put his all skills-and bravery-to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it’s up to Cort to win-or lose-the fight for their lives.

Cort’s parents are separated and his father continually goes to his mother to convince her to come back. On one of these occasions, a hurricane hits and leaves Cort to try to save their houseboat and keep the neighbours safe.

Cort is no stranger to the landscape around their home. His father leads tours on both land and water throughout the area and Cort accompanies him often. When the storm hits,  Cort finds himself swept away along with the neighbours’ girls. They find themselves in a secluded area with hogs, snakes, spiders, alligators and bears who are fleeing the floods. The three try to find safety, but they are outnumbered and  Cort must find help.

The story is very fast paced with constant action. A fun and on the edge-of-your-seat read for Middle Grade/Teen readers. The book also tackles the tough subject of divorce and dealing with emergencies. The writing is well done and really puts you in the southern U.S. Alabama state of mind. I recommend this one for those that enjoy reading stories with family issues or survival stories involving animals and nature. I enjoyed it and think you will to.

Bracken-Passenger coverBel:


I have the audio book, which is a similar cover to the paperback. We see a bottle on the sea. In the reflection is a ship in a bottle, though in the actual bottle there is a view of New York City. The olde-worlde script the title is in, fits the story perfectly.


Even the evil characters have their own valid points for being who they are. I’m sure giving each character their own moral code isn’t an easy task, but it is certainly the key to making them believable, easy to relate to, and complex.


I LOVE Etta. Making the best of every situation and gettin’ it done. Girl has a spine and a mind of her own.

Least Favourite

Hmm… This is difficult. Knowing why evil characters are the way they are makes it really hard to hate them. I think I’ll pick Wren. Buffoon in the extreme.


In present day New York, Etta is prepping for her violin performance, and eavesdrops on her Mum and violin tutor arguing. Nothing goes as planned, and she ends up being accosted by one of the other performers.


She wakes up on a ship in 1776. She’s been kidnapped to complete a task, and with the help of Nicholas Carter, she makes moves to get it done so she can go home to 2015.


There’s another book coming and Bracken is the queen of the cliff hanger.


Travelling through time isn’t a new concept, but this is hardly a wishy-washy half-baked idea. Alexandra has wielded her mastery of well written characters and immersive world building to fling us across the centuries at break neck speed.

Hold onto your hats folks. You’re gonna love the ride.


‘Etta stood at the same moment as Chase; only she was the one close enough to land a slap on the officer’s face. The crack of flesh on flesh stunned Nicholas, who’d leapt up to restrain his friend from lunging across the table.

“And these are the actions of a lady.” Wren sputtered.

“Aye,” Chase said approvingly, “and a damn fine one at that.”’ ~ Awkward dinner conversation.




A glass bottle with New York City in side. Underneath the bottle reflects an 18th century ship. The cover alludes to the very different worlds of both main characters.


Five families in the world are born to travel across time. Etta Spencer belongs to one of the families that has almost died out. Nicholas Carter’s family is the most powerful, controlling all timelines that it has knowledge of.


Both Etta and Nicholas are amazing characters. They work well together. I wouldn’t be able to choose a favourite from them.

Least Favourite

For inconsistency only, Sophia. She starts as such a promising character: someone who is able to read the weaknesses of others and exploit them to her advantage. Unfortunately, that initial ability is never touched on again and, in future situations, she proves incapable of reading anything about the people around her.


Etta is preparing for her debut as a concert soloist. Despite her talent, she is debuting later than many of her peers. On the night of her solo, she witnesses the death of her beloved mentor and is shoved back into 1776.


The formidable Ironwood family is after an artefact, and prepared to kill anyone who thwarts their efforts to find it. The patriarch, Cyrus Ironwood, believes that Etta is the key to finding the object.


Mixed feelings. It increases the possibilities for the next novel, but not necessarily in directions that I like. That said, it’s emotionally satisfying.


I really loved this novel. I’ve recommended it to quite a few people already, and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

The fact that Bracken engages the dark parts of history that people usually avoid is a massive bonus, though I would have liked some more detail on those aspects. Does Nicholas interact with other people of colour? Did his foster father? Where did either of them cultivate the idea that race shouldn’t be a barrier?


The moment her realised he would only ever be a valet to a half brother who would never, ever, not in a thousand years, acknowledge him publicly as such, Nicholas had merely swallowed the bile rising in his throat and finished retying Julian’s cravat the way he preferred it to be styled.



I really enjoyed the imagery on the cover: the opposition of ship vs land, also the bottle. I imagine it represents how she feels trapped (she was kidnapped after all).



Etta for sure. She is very witty and funny, and yet outgoing and vulnerable. Nicholas is a close second though!

Least Favourite

Pretty much anybody proud to claim the name if Ironwood. That family has some issues.


Upon the night of her violin debut, Etta is surprised by a fight between her mother and teacher, and suffers something that at first look seems like a panic attack. She witnesses her teacher murdered, and she is pushed into a worm hole by a unknown girl, who jumps with her.


Etta finds that she has special blood in her genes that allows her to time travel. She has been kidnapped under the order of the Eldest Ironwood family member and finds herself on a pirate ship traveling to New York, where she will ultimately be told what her purpose is and who will die next if she doesn’t fulfil his wishes.


Very much a cliff hanger. We are left not knowing how several storylines end and only small details of choices the characters have left. But, as this is a duology all the answers will be answered eventually.


Like Bel, I also listened to the audio book, which I felt was very good. I have never been a fan of time travel novels, and it’s really rare for me to read one that I would recommend. Unfortunately, I found this one fell onto middle ground; it was ok, but I really didn’t care much for the pacing. However, the characters held my interest in the story, and I will most likely pick up the second book to see what happens with Etta and her mother.

“You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.”  – Nicholas to Etta



If you were able to travel to any time and place in history, where would you go, and why?

Audio CD

Published January 5th 2016 by Brilliance Audio

ISBN 151136114X (ISBN13: 9781511361149)


casey-how to fallSixteen-year-old Jess Tennant has never met any of her relatives, until her mom suddenly drags her out of London to spend the summer in the tiny English town where her family’s from. Her mom’s decision is surprising, but even more surprising is the town’s reaction to Jess. Everywhere she goes, people look at her like they’ve seen a ghost. In a way, they have–she looks just like her cousin Freya, who died shortly before Jess came to town.

Jess immediately feels a strange connection to Freya, whom she never got to meet alive. But the more Jess learns about the secrets Freya was keeping while she was alive, the more suspicious Freya’s death starts to look. One thing is for sure: this will be anything but the safe, boring summer in the country Jess was expecting.

Beloved author Jane Casey breaks new ground with How to Fall, a thrilling and insightfully written mystery.

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published August 26th 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin (first published January 31st 2013)

Jess was one of the most determined and opinionated protagonists that I have read in awhile. She not only stated her mind, she was clear with her intentions up front, which is why I found it surprising, at times, how open others were with her. I mean, expecting her to keep something secret was never going to happen.

The similarity she bore to her dead cousin was so close that when others looked at her, it brought all their memories to the forefront. People became hostile or sad whenever she was around. She, in contrast, seemed to feel very little empathy, especially when it came to the matter of her cousin’s death.

Overall, the novel maintained pretty constant pacing throughout. Jess got to know the community and found a comfortable summer job and, of course, met the cute boy next door. There were times in the story when Jess was wise beyond her years.

I really enjoyed the setting of the story as well. It had a terrific atmosphere and a variety of character types. There is still a lot more I would like to learn about Jess, and I am looking forward to the next book. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy suspense and mystery. I liked it and I think you will to.

wanga-my heart and black holesA stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. 

Hardcover, 302 pages

Published February 10th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

original title

My Heart and Other Black Holes


0062324675 (ISBN13: 9780062324672)

It’s expected that a novel focusing on a plan to commit suicide is going to be depressing and melancholy. There is not much that the story brings plot-wise that is not described in the synopsis. It’s a story that focuses on two characters: Aysel and Roman. They meet on an Internet suicide site and make a pact to commit suicide together.

I had a hard time trying to figure out what to say in my review of this story, as the book cover pretty much summarized the whole book. What I figured I would do was discuss my feelings about the story. It is hard to know whether the actions and feelings that the characters experience are enough to consider suicide. People lose themselves in emotions, become blind, lost, panicked, content or happy on an individual basis. It’s such a personal issue, how can  I judge whether they were justified in their thoughts?

Aysel is having a hard time at home and school. She feels constantly judged, eyes on her at school and also in her own home. She has a hard time expressing her emotions. Roman, on the other hand, feels that a part of him is missing. His actions caused harm and the guilt weighs him down so heavily that he’s lost his way.

This story is mostly about working out your feelings. Sometimes you find your way through them, but sometimes you don’t. The decision to follow through with your intentions, or finding a way to release them becomes the main objective of the book.

I personally agree that the best way to really understand how you feel is to open up. Conversation really does wonders, and when things are brought to light, the majority of the time you feel better. Since I am a strong believer in honesty, releasing emotion through conversations is the best thing for you emotionally. It depends on who’s around you though. Often releasing through writing, drawing, exercising is a good start, and both of these characters seem to have fallen into a place where they block out using that kind of release.

The message I got from the book was… don’t be afraid to talk, ask the hard questions, get to know yourself and others. I’m not going to say it was an easy book to read, or that I would recommend it to everybody. But I think that it was well presented and could really connect with some readers. There is a message here and taking some time out to really think about it, or discuss it with others, might give some people comfort.


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