Meet one of our long time and beloved staff members, Lisa Smith. She’s a college student from Washington State and has her own website over at turningpages.

Lisa Signature



Pretty plain cover. I appreciate it because it’s one that doesn’t have a girl in a dress on the cover, even though it could with this story. It’s nice to see something simple.


There are actually a lot more characters than I was thinking there would be when starting the story. Not only do we meet those people most important in Kitty’s life, but all of the Hart family and their closely trusted circle.


By the end of the book my favourite character was Benjy. If I were stuck in this situation, I would want him as my sidekick: dependable, honest, and trustworthy.

Least Favourite

There were more people I didn’t like than I liked in this one! It was very surprising that the further I read, the more dislike I had for each member of the family and their actions. This took me off guard. I would have to say the most hated from the first time we were introduced to her was Augusta, the oldest surviving member  of the family line.


Kitty has just taken her test and rated lower than she expected in the cast system her world so depends on. She has just turned 17 and feels that her life has just plummeted to nothing and she would rather die. Her boyfriend Benjy and her “mother” encourage her to live and convince her that she is destined to help the population fight the unfair ranking system.


Kitty is picked up off the streets because of her similar look to Lila Hart. Given no reasonable choice, she is forced into pretending to be Lila after being “Masked” to look exactly like her. As she stands in for Lila, the family slowly begins revealing secrets of how they really rule the land and the operate the ranking system. She soon gets caught up with the political labyrinth players and the rebellion.


You thought you could see what was coming, but I never expected things to go the way they did! It was like being on a roller coaster where you were expecting to drop downwards but it pulled you sideways instead.


I can honestly say that I have not read a teen book with so many twists. I think there were so many big revelations throughout the story that I could actually feel my head spin. I am usually a huge fan of books that are just as fast paced and action packed as this one, but at the end I felt pounded with so much to take in. I felt out of whack, needing to still take it all in. It was a pretty dark and powerful read if you look at it in a more critical way — politically and socially.


“But the world is out there, and it understands that the illusion of knowledge and freedom is not the same as the real thing. Eventually, it will fade, and there are those who will do whatever it takes to make that happen sooner rather than later.”



aimee carterBel:


I borrowed the audio book from the Brisbane City Council Library and Bolinda Online audio books. The cover art is a round maze with an eye visible though most of the paths. A blue chess piece sits in the top right hand corner of the slate grey background. The book is read by Lamecce Issaq.


There are so many characters to hate in this book. The lovable ones are certainly a catalyst to continue reading the series.


Kitty. Kick ass, and brainy. Some of her decisions are a little questionable but her motivations make sense.

Least Favourite

Hmmm. Augusta. Again you can understand her motives, but that doesn’t make them right, or forgivable in any way.


Kitty is given a really low score on the standardised test to see where she will fit into society, which means a menial job and having to move away from the love of her life Benji.


Kitty takes an offer to go from a 3 to a 7 with the intention of being able to stay with Benji. Strings are attached however, and what would a good dystopian book be without some totally corrupt political themes.


I didn’t pick it, and I am desperate to read on.


With the standardised testing in Aussie schools becoming such a focus, the thought that a single exam determines the rest of your life is just a little too close to home.

I was a little weirded out by the masking process and how easily it seemed to be to recover from such dramatic procedures. Anyone who’s ever seen that gosh awful make over TV show The Swan… that’s what I pictured through this section of the book. EWWW!

I was a little perplexed about the lack of reaction from the character Celia over Kitty’s new circumstance. As a Mum, if this happened to me, I’d be beyond not okay with it.

I did LOVE the book. I’ll be looking to read on throughout 2015.


I picked this quote because it is pretty much the pivotal argument through the whole book, and I would hazard a guess as to the inspiration for the title of the book.

“They may be weak when the game begins, but their potential is remarkable. Most of the time, they’ll be taken by the other side and held captive until the end of the game. But if you’re careful—if you keep your eyes open and pay attention to what your opponent is doing, if you protect your pawns and they reach the other side of the board, do you know what happens then?”
I shook my head, and she smiled.
“Your pawn becomes a queen.” 
~ Kitty having a conversation with Celia about chess.




A brilliantly blue eye framed by something that resembles machinery. Fits the futuristic dystopian theme.



The cast of characters isn’t huge in Pawn, so it’s easy to keep track of who everyone is. The Prime Minister’s family make up most of the players and it ends up seeming a bit like a political family drama.


Greyson. He’s probably the smartest guy in the book. Trying to sort out that mess of family is way too complicated. He’s also more empathetic than the others; accepting people as they are rather than forcing them into what he wants them to be.

Least Favourite

Kitty. She really does live up to the book title. She never risks herself; she just lets the larger players push her to where they need her to be.


When Kitty scores low on the test that will decide her future, she thinks that any chance of a good life is forfeit. Then the Prime Minister makes her an offer that she can’t refuse.


In a futuristic dystopia, Kitty is an unwanted extra child. When the Prime Minister offers her a chance at more than she could have dreamed, she takes it. What she doesn’t realise is that taking the offer might mean losing herself and becoming someone else – specifically the Prime Minister’s niece, Lila Hart.


There’s more upheaval in the end of Pawn than I was expecting. The game is going to change drastically in book two!


Carter took a lot of the issues with growth and technology that worry us today and incorporated them into Pawn. What if technology existed that meant we could replace one figurehead with another without anyone knowing? If humans don’t regulate the population now, what will it mean in the future?

There are also some truths in the novel. Even now the world is told to believe that if a person works hard enough – wants something desperately enough – they will achieve it. We believe the lie, and don’t question the ugliness beneath it. Pawn builds its foundation on that unpleasant notion with the idea that a test given to the poor and rich alike is not equal.


“On my birthday, you gave me a present,” I said. “It was a purple flower from a vendor selling perfumes. A violet. You said – you said they never gave up, like me.”





I absolutely love this cover. If you have the US hardback version, the book jacket slips off, and reveals something even more beautiful. Looking at this cover before indulging in the book, it completely suckers you in. It’s mysterious, different, and bold in a strange way. After reading Pawn and looking back at the cover, you find a whole new meaning to it and each of its elements. Gorgeous!


There are quite a few characters in Pawn, but each and every one of them is unique and interesting. Obviously, some are meant for you to hate, but I can appreciate an amazing villain!


Of course my favourite character would be Kitty, and I’m sure many of you will agree with me. She’s totally kick butt and doesn’t let anything scare her. She’s the perfect character for this role; she’s someone strong who won’t back down on her beliefs.

Least Favourite

As I said before, I can appreciate an amazing villain. When I think of my least favourite character, my mind automatically goes to Augusta or Daxton, simply because the reader is made to despise them. But looking back at them, they are perfect. Daxton is crazy in the head, and does some really messed up stuff, while Augusta is the older lady, who thinks she can still rule a modern world in the old ways.

Overall, I LOVED these two characters, but if I had to choose my “least favourite” it would be them.


Pawn follows the story of a teenage girl named Kitty Doe. Anyone with the last name “Doe” is the child that was illegally born, because there is a one child minimum law. While most Does are sent to a place called Elsewhere, some are lucky enough to go to local group homes.

Once teenagers turn seventeen years old, they take an aptitude test, that determines what their ranks are in society. Ones and twos are usually sent to Elsewhere, while threes do the dirty work, fours and fives live comfortable while sixes and sevens are royalty.

After taking her test, Kitty scores low, and is tattooed a three on the back of her neck. She knows she will spend the rest of life working in the underground sewers, or renting out her body to disgusting men for money.


But when Kitty is approached by a man, who she later discovers is part of the royal family, with an offer to become a seven, Kitty can’t turn it down. She doesn’t know what the catch is, or what he expects of her, but becoming a seven is much better than staying a three, or being sent to Denver, or Elsewhere.


While I wish I could give you as much detail about the end, as I did with the beginning, I can’t. I want you to feel the same excitement, nervousness, and anxiety I felt with I was completely wrapped up in Pawn.

All I can tell you is that this story was absolutely amazing! And I’m dying to go out and buy myself a copy of the second book in The Black Coat Rebellion series: Captive.


I love Aimee Carter and have read all of her books, so this month’s read was a very exciting one for me!

When I first started Pawn, it reminded me of The Selection. Obviously, there are thirty-five girls standing here, to fight for the position that Kitty is in, but the general idea of a poor girl comes into the kingdom and starts to change this in their society is the same. Pawn also had different rankings in society. In The Selection, the higher numbers where lower ranking, in Pawn the lower numbers where lower ranking.

Overall, I enjoyed Pawn, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Selection series as well as The Chemical Garden trilogy.



Discussion Questions

Kitty has dyslexia and it has an affect on her test results. How do you feel about the very generalized way of ranking people this book has
Would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good?

How does the book compare to Kiera Cass’s The Selection?

Do our other club members use audio books often, and out of the three formats (ebook, physical book, audio book) which did they use for this month’s pick?

How close are we, as a global society, to using standardised testing to ‘match’ people to their ideal jobs?

Feel free to take the discussion to out GoodReads home.




Cass_The SelectionThe Selection is often compared to the TV show The Bachelor, and when I heard that, I ran. I ran so fast and so far. I absolutely despise The Bachelor. Who in the world would go on television and compete with thirty other people for this one guy? There are so many good guys out there who wouldn’t make you compete with thirty other people for his attention.

There is no need for this show! Plus, how many of these ‘couples’ actually end up staying together and making it work?

But even with all of my disgust towards the show, I couldn’t help but notice all of the amazing reviews coming out for not only The Selection, but also The Elite and The One. I couldn’t help but become interested. So I decided to pick it up, but I also promised myself that I would put it down as soon as it stopped being enjoyable.

My biggest fear when reading The Selection was that it completely revolved around a competition: that this entire book would be about dates, competition between the girls, and listening to each one of them swoon about their ‘love’ for this guy.

As I cracked open The Selection, I cringed and began reading. Chapter one went by, chapter two, three, four and five flew by, and before I knew it I was only a few chapters away from the end of the book. I couldn’t get through it fast enough, and found myself reading it during any down time at work.

Why did I enjoy it right away? Especially after all the hostility I had towards it?

Simply because of the main character, America. My expectations for this character were extremely low and I thought she would be a dumb bimbo who would do anything to get this guy’s attention and pretty much embarrass herself throughout the entire book. But America was nothing like that. In the first few chapters when she didn’t even want to put her name in for the selection, I knew I would love her…

The Selection takes place in the future, where America lives in a kingdom named Illea. Not only is this society run by a king and queen, but it is also divided up by castes: one is the royal family and eight are outcasts. These castes are divided by their jobs and how much they get paid. The only way to move up in castes is through marriage. Moving down is the punishment for breaking a law.

The prince has finally come of age and is looking for a wife to take the throne beside him. The only way to do this, of course, is to select a few girls from his kingdom (no matter the caste number), and then select a bride from there.

America didn’t even consider the idea of putting her name in the lottery, knowing she doesn’t want to compete for Prince Maxon’s ‘love’, especially when she has someone like Aspen. But when Aspen begs America to at least put her name in, telling her that the chances of her being chosen would be so slim, and he doesn’t want to hold her back from the possibility, America sees no harm in it – considering how many girls are entering, and decides to go ahead and do it anyway…

…until the chosen girls are announced on national television and America is one of the thirty-five chosen. The next day is when everything takes off and America’s life will never be the same. During her stay, her family will be paid and America will automatically become a two, even if she doesn’t win Maxon’s heart. America is thrown into this crazy world where she is surrounded by beautiful things, beautiful people, and lots of delicious food. She knows she doesn’t belong here, but she may as well take the opportunity, not only for her family, but also the entire kingdom, to get things done and fixed.

Overall, The Selection surprised me! The entire book didn’t consist of some girl going on dates, competing with other girls, and swooning about her ‘love’ for this guy. America was kickass, didn’t take anything from anyone, and didn’t change herself just because her surroundings changed. She was still the girl she was before, and I loved that about her.

While the selection was taking place, there were a lot of other elements in the story that distracted me from it. The caste system, the rebels, the society, etc. prevented the main focus from being just the competition

If you haven’t read The Selection for the same reasons I didn’t, I would recommend at least giving it a try…it might suck you into its vortex, like it did to me!

sheinmel_SecondStar_CoverRevealSecond Star is a book filled with surfers, waves, wild kids, and LOTS of boys! While Second Star sounds like the perfect beach read, it isn’t the average one! Second Star is actually a retelling of Peter Pan! Before I started reading this story, I wasn’t sure how Alyssa Sheinmel would pull of this Peter Pan surfer guy retelling…

In the end, my curiosity got the best of me; I couldn’t resist and HAD to pick it up!

The main character in Second Star is a recent high school graduate, Wendy Darling, who is on her way to college in the fall. Things seem to being good for Wendy, but Wendy and her parents are still struggle with her two younger missing brothers. The twins haven’t been seen or heard from since. Her parents are moping around and convinced that they will never see their children again, Wendy is believes that they are somewhere out there catching the next wave to surf.

Wendy is determined to find them, and bring them home, no matter what her parents and best friend think or say. The perfect opportunity arises when she bumps into another surfer at her graduation bonfire.  His name is Pete and he lives with a few other runaways in an abandoned house on the beach.

Pete is like no one Wendy has ever met, he is a completely free soul, who wants to do nothing but surf and spend time with his friends. When Wendy finally decides to pack her things and go on a search, she begs her best friend to cover for her. When she finally agrees, Wendy isn’t really sure where to start, but the best place would be with Pete and the other surfer runaways in the hopes that one of them will know something!

With all odds going against her, and even a betrayal by two people that were the closest to her, Wendy isn’t willing to believe what everyone is telling her. She knows that John and Michael are somewhere out in the ocean, and therapists, hospitals, her parents, and her best friend aren’t going to keep her from thinking that.

When I started reading Second Star, I had no idea just how emotional this story was going to be. There was honestly so much going from the relationships between Wendy, Pete, Jas, Belle, the twins and some of the other runaways.

The “retelling” part is what suckered me into picking up this book; I wanted to see how the author would pull these two VERY different subjects together, to make it work. I was excited to see it all happen! But in the end I didn’t see much of it there. Yes, the characters were named after the Peter Pan characters, and yes Wendy went to a kind of “Neverland”. But besides that, there wasn’t too much else. I guess I was expecting there too be a lot more similarities, and was a little disappointed when there wasn’t.

There were a lot of good characters in this book, Wendy, Pete, Jas, Belle, Wendy’s best friend, and some of the guys. Wendy wasn’t willing to just give up on her brothers, she still had hope, which I liked and found courageous. Pete was a caring leader, who knew exactly what he had to do to keep his group safe. Belle was the perfect mean girl, and even opened up a bit towards the end. Jas was the faerie dust dealer, who seems to be this bad (ish) boy, but he also opens up and is so much more than that.

Overall I enjoyed Second Star. But with that said I don’t feel like it should have been categorized as a retelling. I feel like Second Star would have been off much better as a story within itself. The characters were amazing, the story was good, what brought it down for me, were the expectations of a retelling which just didn’t exist in this book.

I would recommend this book, but I would tell you not to focus on the “retelling” part. Just enjoy the characters and story!


Valente_fell beneathJOIN our book club discussion on Goodreads



I own the paperback of the book, and the cover art by Ana Juan reflects the story to a tee!


Though odd at times, in a rather Alice in Wonderland-esque way, each character seems to be well thought out and beautiful in their own right.


A-Through-L… He’s special, and I love his desire to be a better Wyverary.

Least Favourite

Maud. Though misunderstood, I still dislike her.


September, a 12 year old Omaha girl, is swept away to Fairyland.


She is forced into service for the Marquess, and the impossible tasks she is set lead September on her great adventure through Fairyland.


Technically this story doesn’t end, as there is more fun to be had in Fairyland in further books.


I ended up listening to this book through Audible audio books, and it was far easier to hear Catherynne read to me than it was to read it myself. I felt like I was a child again, tucked up in bed and being read fantastical tales, which made little sense but held imperative lessons. This book reminded me so much of Alice in Wonderland, and yet it stands on its own two feet and takes us places Alice would never have dared to go.


“I can’t stop,” the shark rasped. “If I stop, I shall sink and die. That’s the way I’m made. I have to keep going always, and even when I get where I’m going, I’ll have to keep on. That’s living.” ~ The shark conversing with September.


Valente-girl audioKrista:


Takes me back to that childhood feeling of knowing you will find a great adventure within. Why is the dragon chained? Is the girl hiding the key on purpose? It represents the story very well and is intriguing.


So many characters! Imagine Alice in Wonderland. As September makes her way through fairyland she comes across various curious characters with unusual names and ways.


I have to say that I could not place a favourite. I loved the majority of the characters and what they represented in the story.

Least Favourite

Marquess. I usually love me a villain, but there was absolutely nothing about this one that appealed to me.


September, bored of washing dishes, is approached by The Green Wind and a Leopard whom she climbs upon and is taken to the border of Fairyland. In the closet, she must answer questions and go through customs. She nearly drowns upon her entry to Fairyland and comes across three witches who send her on her quest for a spoon.


Fairyland has not been the same since the new Queen has taken the crown. September, along with her dragon and boy companion Saturday, goes on a quest to bring Fairyland back to its former glory.


Very much like our childhood books, this one ends with a peaceful goodnight. But it’s not the end of September’s adventures! There are more books to this series.


It was nice to end this year of book club with a very light, fun, and entertaining read. It has been to long since I have read a children’s fairytale and think that Catherynne M Valente did a magical job of whisking us away to a new and very curious world.


September sniffed and straightened up. She was not one to feel sorry for herself for long, “Mainly, I am going to Pandemonium, to stead the Spoon that belongs to the witch Goodbye, so that she can cook up the future again and not feel so sad.”


Valente_fell beneathLisa:


At first look, the cover appears to be like a Middle Grade book: fun and interesting! But honestly, the cover doesn’t do this amazing story any justice! While this “could” be considered a Middle Grade book, it is so much than that!


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making had a strangely intriguing cast of characters! Going from a young girl named September, a marid named Saturday, a dragon named A-through-L, and so many more!


I think every character in this book was my favourite. No-one was boring, lame, or similar. Each character was odd, creative, and strange.

Least Favourite:

Not a single one!


I’ll admit that I didn’t really think I would get as involved in this book as I did. After quickly reading through the first twenty or so pages, I couldn’t believe everything that was happening, so I decided to start all over, just to make sure I caught it all. This is a pretty dense story!


We are not only introduced to a strange fairy world, but also a lot of interesting characters. September faces a few bumps in the road, and has an amazing, mind-boggling journey!


All I can say is that I do plan on picking up the rest of the books! If you want to know what happens at the end of this book…you’re going to have to read it for yourself! I promise you won’t regret doing so!


The only thing I would change about this book, is that I wish I had more time to read it. So I could take my time and really enjoy every single aspect! There is a lot that happens, I recommend taking your time and savouring the story!



This book is about escaping your normal life for a little adventure. What fantasy world would you like to lose yourself in and why?

What was the most memorable scene/character in this story and what about it stuck with you?



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