Audiobook Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Audio Review

All American BoysTitle: All American Boys

Authors: Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Narrators: Guy Lockhard & Keith Nobbs

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dloughy Books

Release Date: September 29, 2015

Source: Audio purchased by Audible

Interest: Authors / Contemp

Summary (From Goodreads):

In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

Typically for an audio review I break up my post into two parts: the audio review followed by the book review. Today I’ve decided to break away from that. Rashad’s and Quinn’s stories prompted a number of questions to form as I listened to All American Boys, so I decided to list my questions instead of writing a formal review. I think the questions I kept asking myself speak volumes about the story and about our society. All of the questions I’m listing stem from moments in the novel.

  1. Why does American mean white? Why is does it seem like that’s the definition of our country?
  2. Who do you call for help when you witness a police officer doing wrong? Who else can help? Will other police officers come to your aid?
  3. Why aren’t the teachers discussing Rashad’s beating in their classrooms? Why do some teachers avoid openly discussing tough topics?
  4. Is it really “best” to leave it (it=Rashad’ beating / race issues / tough topics) at the gym door? Does this build a stronger team or weaken it? What does this actually communicate to the student athletes?
  5. Who’s on your team outside the gym door?
  6. Why in this day and age are there still “Invisible Men”?
  7. How do we define loyalty? Where do our loyalties lie? When is it necessary to redefine our definitions?

All American Boys is a novel that our country needs right now, which is why I hope teachers and librarians and parents read and share this book with teens. Today’s teenagers will be tomorrow’s leaders, so I hope Jason Reynold’s and Brendan Kiely’s novel lands in their hands.

Where Are The Non-Celebrity Authors?

Something’s been bothering me and I feel the need to write about it. Since Jack was born (and I’ve been waking up MUCH earlier) I’ve started watching TV morning shows like Good Morning America and Live! With Kelly and Michael. They interview authors often, but lately they’ve interviewed some YA authors. I’m happy to see YA novels receive more coverage, but what bothers me is that celebrity authors are being interviewed.

If you’re like me then you view YA authors as celebrities, so you might wonder why I’m bothered by these authors being interviewed. Over the summer Kelly and Michael featured After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco. When I saw this book in the line-up I was geeked because I thought maybe Barry Lyga would be on the show. Nope, they interviewed Peter Facinelli. Just this month Shay Mitchell was on Live! With Kelly and Michael talking about her YA/NA novel Bliss: A Novel. It seems like Good Morning America is more apt to interview authors who write novels for adults, like today they interviewed Michael Strahan about his new book.

I have nothing against Peter Facinelli or Shay Mitchell. I’m happy to see authors and their novels receiving national coverage. I’m especially happy to see YA novels earning such wide attention; hopefully those books will land in more teen’s hands now. But why can’t non-celebrity authors be interviewed on morning shows or national TV in general? Aren’t their books worthy of more attention? Don’t viewers read books other than those written by actors? How do we make this happen?

If any television producers happen to be reading my little blog (ha!), here are some YA authors my students love who write books that you should consider featuring on your shows:

Jason Reynolds–His newest book, All American Boyswhich he co-wrote with Brendan Kiely–is timely, important and powerful.

David Levithan–Besides the fact that I could listen to him talk for hours, he’s so smart and deeply insightful. His books make my teens think in ways they may not otherwise.

Gae Polisner–What I love about Gae is that she truly loves teens. She bends over backwards to connect with them, especially teens who are aspiring authors. Her most recent release, The Summer of Letting Go, has been so popular I haven’t seen my copies since the school year began.

Courtney Summers–Courtney understands how complex teen girls are. Her novels are loved by my students because they’re raw and real and deep. Her newest novel, All the Rage, zooms in on rape culture in ways that many books do not but should.

Julie Murphy–I haven’t told anyone this, but I had a dream a few weeks ago that Julie Murphy was being interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel. How cool would that be?! Dumplin’ is a book that should be featured on TV because of its focus on being body positive and being so appealing to teens in general.

Kwame Alexander–Um, he wrote a Newbery award-winning novel, so why HASN’T he been on national television?!

Cinda Williams Chima–Fantasy is always a popular genre and Cinda Williams Chima writes FANTASTIC fantasy series! Why not feature an author who writes fantasy that Lord of the Rings fans will love?

Sherman Alexie–He’s a well-known author in the publishing world. His YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned or censored multiple times despite its need to be in the hands of teens. Sherman Alexie would be great to interview because of his insight on censorship and the need for diversity in the publishing world.

Rae Carson–Rae is another fabulous fantasy author. Her newest release, Walk on Earth a Stranger, is a stunning piece of fantasy historical fiction that’s on the Young People’s Literature National Book Award longlist.

Libba Bray–She’s too smart and her writing too brilliant NOT to be featured on television.

I could go on and on with this list, but I’m going to stop here. Let me know in the comments which authors you’d love to see on national TV!

Cover Reveal: Spark by Holly Schindler

I’m excited to be part of Holly Schindler’s cover reveal for her upcoming release, Spark. It’s such a gorgeous cover!

Holly Schindler’s Spark:

Spark coverWhen the right hearts come to the Avery Theater—at the right time—the magic will return. The Avery will come back from the dead.

Or so Quin’s great-grandmother predicted many years ago on Verona, Missouri’s most tragic night, when Nick and Emma, two star-crossed teenage lovers, died on the stage. It was the night that the Avery’s marquee lights went out forever.

It sounds like urban legend, but one that high school senior Quin is now starting to believe, especially when her best friend, Cass, and their classmate Dylan step onto the stage and sparks fly. It seems that magic can still unfold at the old Avery Theater and a happier ending can still be had—one that will align the stars and revive not only the decrepit theater, but also the decaying town. However, it hinges on one thing—that Quin gets the story right this time around.

Holly Schindler brings the magic of the theater to life in this tale of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.


In my hometown, the restoration of a former movie theater on the town square provided the genesis for my new YA novel, SPARK. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of seeing their name in blazing neon across a gigantic marquee? Let me invite you to dim the lights and draw back the velvet curtains—let your imagination run wild as you enter my fictional Avery Theater, where literally anything goes

—Holly Schindler

About the Author:

Holly SchindlerHolly Schindler is the author of three previous YA novels: PLAYING HURT as well as the critically acclaimed FERAL (starred PW review) and A BLUE SO DARK (starred Booklist review, ForeWord Book of the Year silver medal, IPPY gold medal). A writer of books for all ages, Schindler’s MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, has made the master list for children’s book awards in Illinois, South Carolina, and Alabama. She is also a hybrid author, having independently released comedic women’s fiction (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS) and the forthcoming PLAY IT AGAIN, her adult follow-up to her YA PLAYING HURT. She can be reached through her author site:, and hosts special sneak peeks and giveaways for subscribers of her newsletter:


Spark “Premieres” May 17, 2016, but you can buy your “tickets” now.

Spark premiere graphic

Links to pre-order –




Add to your TBR list –


Audiobook Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Audio Review

Dumplin'Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Narrator: Eileen Stevens

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: September 15th, 2015

Interest: Contemp

Source: Audio purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Audiobook Review: I listened to the audio for Dumplin’ because I was originally listening to the audio for Dorothy Must Die and it was randomly removed from Scribd. After some frantic searching (I HAD to find a new audiobook), I found the audio for Dumplin’. After a quick sample I knew I wanted to listen to it. The narrator, Eileen Stevens, has an easy and smooth voice and I loved the accent she used; I felt like I was really there alongside Willowdean in Texas. Stevens did an excellent job switching her voice for each of the female characters, but the male characters, however, too often sounded the same which made it difficult at times to follow the story. Besides that, I thoroughly enjoyed this listening experience and finished Julie Murphy’s newest release in a matter of days.

Book Review: First and foremost, all teenagers need access to this book. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed fat girl like Willowdean or not, teens are going to find themselves in her story. There were multiple times I felt myself nodding my head and thinking “Yep, I felt the same way, Willowdean. I worried about that or wished that, too.” Teens need to find themselves in the books they read and I’m sure they will when they read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.

Willowdean won me over because she’s authentic and honest with herself. She’s true to herself even when she has self-doubts. She’s quick-witted. Julie Murphy wrote a teen character who truly sounds and acts and thinks like a teenager. Just like Willowdean I was self-conscious about my body, especially around boys. Just like Willowdean I was snarky on the outside but not always so confident on the inside. I’m in my 30s now, but I know teens today will connect for many of the same reasons.

If you like books about friendships, read Dumplin’. If you like books with crush-worthy guys, read Dumplin’. If you like books with strained mother-daughter relationships, read Dumplin’.

I basically can’t say enough good things about Dumplin’. It’s been added to my Favorites shelf and will certainly be a favorite of 2015. Just like I want everyone I meet to read Winger by Andrew Smith and fall in love with Ryan Dean, I want everyone to read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and fall in love with Willowdean.

Audiobook Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Audio Review

Walk on Earth a StrangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Erin Mallon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22nd, 2015

Interest: Author / Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Source: Audible purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Audio Review: I couldn’t buy a physical copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger yet, but I really wanted to read it so I decided to download the audio via Scribd. I’m so thankful that I did because the audio is great and so is the story. Erin Mallon has a voice suitable for a sharp shooting girl who’s fleeing to the west. It’s just the slightest bit gritty and easy to listen to. Also, the audio is almost 11 hours long and I finished it within a few days because I kept finding excuses to keep listening. There were a few times I walked into work a little late so I could keep listening in the parking lot. And I did the same thing in my garage. I was thoroughly entertained.

Book Review: I’m a big Rae Carson fan so I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger and I’m sure her other fans feel the same. Looking for epic world building? You’ll feel like you’re trekking into the wild west with Leah. Want to feel a crazy bond with the characters? I haven’t felt so close to a group of a characters in a very long time. I was hoping for more fantasy elements, but this is a stunning piece of historical fiction.

Did any of you play the Oregon Trail game in elementary school? I remember playing in my 4th or 5th grade social studies class and loving it. I clearly remember the wagon I built with my dad for our class project. Reading Walk on Earth a Stranger was like playing the Oregon Trail game on steroids. There’s an especially vivid buffalo scene that made my hair stand on end. I’m sure the audio helped, but I really felt like I was alongside Leah throughout the story. Her magic sense added an extra layer of excitement, but I liked the historical elements even more. For some reason I’m not always quick to pick up a historical fiction novel, but if they were all this entertaining I’d read more from the genre.

Let me tell you, I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. Some of the men in this book made my skin crawl. During the Gold Rush era women still weren’t respected and treated fairly. I love that Leah fights that and so do some of the other women she meets. It was also difficult listening to characters depict Native Americans in such a backwards and bigoted manner, but that’s sadly true to the time period. There were also a few moments that had me tearing up and had my heart swelling. There’s a good reason why Walk on Earth a Stranger is on the long list for the Young People’s Literature category for the National Book Award!

I wish I didn’t have to wait a year to read the second book in the series. I’m expecting more magic as the series progresses, so I know it will continue to be a fun series to read. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a must read!

Review: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Dream Things TrueTitle: Dream Things True

Author: Marie Marquardt

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Diversity / Retelling

Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

I really enjoy teaching Romeo & Juliet, so when Dream Things True was pitched as a modern retelling of the famous tragedy I knew I had to read it. Evan and Alma are certainly star-crossed lovers considering Evan comes from a wealthy family and Alma is and comes from an undocumented Mexican family. Alma’s story really captured my attention since I haven’t read many (any?) YA novels focusing on undocumented citizens.

Marie Marquardt brings to light an issue that many of us are aware of, but may not truly know how it affects people. Alma’s family is close-knit and loyal to one another; they look out for one another, even their families still in Mexico. Through Alma readers are able to see what life as an undocumented citizen is like. Marie Marquardt never makes this feel like an issue book, but the tension between politicians, American citizens, and undocumented citizens is evident. I’m looking forward to discussing this with my students as they read Dream Things True, especially since it’s not a topic we typically discuss in class.

The story of Alma, her family, Evan, and his family is a balanced one, but there’s an additional storyline added that deals with date rape. Honestly, I know why it’s included because it’s a good way to make a certain character more antagonistic, but it distracted me from the story. It felt excessive to me. I would have been completely find continuing to read Alma and Evan’s story without it or with a different storyline to layer the conflict.

Other than that issue I enjoyed Dream Things True. I liked making connections to Romeo & Juliet and wondering as I read which scenes and characters my students would recognize. I also appreciate that readers can read this book and not connect it in any way to Shakespeare’s famous tragedy; nothing is lost if a reader isn’t familiar with the story.


Book Trailer Thursday (175)–Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Book Trailer Thursday

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige released in April 2014, so it’s not exactly new by any means, but I recently started listening to the audio and I love it! The only problem is that I was listening to the audio with my Scribd app and one morning an alert popped up stating that the audio was no longer available due to something about the author or publisher. I was SO disappointed! And annoyed. Now I have to wait until next month when I get another Audible credit to finish listening to it since Audible still has the audio available.

Dorothy Must DieSummary (From Goodreads):

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt is a modern retelling based on Romeo & Juliet. For this blog tour author guest post I asked Marie Marquardt how she tied the famous tragedy to her story. I love her explanation, especially after finishing the book, and really appreciate how much more she added to the story.

Dream Things TrueAbout the Book (Goodreads link):

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town. Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.


Barnes & Noble:
Google Play:


Marie Marquardt CREDIT Kenzi Tainow



Marie Marquardt’s Guest Post:

I am intrigued by the fact that young adults have to make their way in a world that they didn’t create – a world that they inherited from their parents, their society, and the legal system that structures their lives. For Evan and Alma, the protagonists in Dream Things True, growing up means opening their eyes to the painful injustice of that world, and then devising a way to struggle against it together.

Dream Things True is similar to Romeo and Juliet in that my protagonists are “star-crossed” in the sense of having fate (in the form of family connections, social norms, and laws) working against them. There are also are some plot elements and characters that bear close resemblance to the play. Evan and Alma fall for each other fast, to be sure (but not as lightening-fast as Romeo and Juliet). The story also features an irredeemably bad guy named Conway, who functions much like Tybalt. But, like Tybalt, Conway is not the antagonistic force in the story. (That’s society.) He’s just plain bad, and he manifests some of the most insidious elements of the society, laying them bare for all to see.

Sometimes, though, I feel inclined to resist the comparison with Romeo and Juliet. Alma is much more savvy than Juliet, and Evan definitely is way less dramatic and impulsive than Romeo! Also, Dream Things True is a story about many kinds of love, not just the romantic love explored in Romeo and Juliet. It’s about a son’s love for his mother, even when she’s emotionally distant. It’s about a sister’s love for her brother, even when he makes choices she disagrees with. It’s about the love we have for friends who do the unthinkable, but then seek our forgiveness. Love runs deep and broad in this story.

And one more thing: I wrote Dream Things True with the goal of offering an honest, realistic portrayal of the crises faced by undocumented immigrant families in a particular time and place. Because of this, I couldn’t give the story a sweet happily ever-after sort of ending (Oh, how I wish I could!). But the story’s outcome is hopeful, not tragic and devastating. This, of course, also distinguishes Dream Things True from the real tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.


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Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and the author of Living Illegal: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration. She is widely published on issues of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. South. Marquardt has also worked as an advocate among immigrants in Atlanta. She is a founder and co-chair of El Refugio, a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Dream Things True is Marie’s first young adult novel.  


Book Trailer Thursday (174)–Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Book Trailer Thursday

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan released from Dutton Books for Young Readers on May 26th, 2015. Sorry for the abrupt post today; I’m on a tight schedule this week!

Daughter of Deep SilenceSummary (From Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

Waiting on Wednesday–Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

During the ALAN workshop this November I’m moderating the fantasy author panel, which means I’m reading a few fantasy novels this fall. I didn’t know about Tessa Elwood’s debut Inherit the Stars until I saw her name as part of the panel. I enjoy reading fantasy even though I don’t read it as regularly as I should, so I’m excited to read Elwood’s promising debut.

Inherit the StarsTitle & Author: Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Release Date: December 8th, 2015

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Summary (From Goodreads):

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood’s debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

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