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Teen SRC 2021 – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval, a fantasy fiction book written by Stephanie Garber, dives deep into a magical world of puzzles. “Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.” That is true. But what if you don’t know what you desire the most? What if a mischievous, young sailor takes the place of the most important person in your heart?

This novel is about Scarlett Dragna and her sister, Dontella Dragna. They grew up listening to stories about Caraval, the magical performance that only occurred once a year. Since they were nine years old, Caraval has always been their dream. Now, suddenly, seven years later, Scarlett receives an invitation to Caraval. But is Caraval really the enchanted place everyone thinks it is? And if it really is so magical and innocent, why is everyone there so secretive? Scarlett has to draw a line between illusion and reality, in order to save her sister in time.

This book is SO magical, and I don’t mean just the plot. I read for around five minutes, I swear, and suddenly I finished the whole book. Please do not ask me how that happened; I don’t know myself. But what I do know is that this is the best fantasy book I’ve ever read in my entire life. I have no words for the amount of elegant description of beautiful settings, the captivating way Garber writes about the characters. It was the perfect amount of everything; I really don’t know how else to describe it. The happiness and heartbreak was so carefully balanced, the romantic aspects not overwhelming the plot, and the story itself full of magic.

Normally, I have a “things I didn’t like,” or critique section in my book reviews. Let’s just say, I stared at the computer for ten minutes and couldn’t think of a single piece of criticism to write. The book was amazing.

I’m sure I’ve made this overly clear throughout my book review, but in conclusion, I’d rate this book 10/10. I really hope other people will read the book and like it as much as I did. Also, there’s actually a series to this book, and I’ve got nothing but over-the-top excitement and high expectations for that. I seriously could not recommend this book more, go try it for yourself and hopefully, embark on the same thrilling adventure I went on while reading!

TAMBA Author Interview — Darren Groth

Darren Groth is a Vancouver author and has written books Are You Seeing Me?, Infinite Blue, and Munro vs. the Coyote. Here are some of the highlights from his interview with Ryan, a fellow Teen Ambassador.

What motivates you to write your books? I noticed all your books have quite similar themes.

Are You Seeing Me? - Groth, Darren

I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was in Grade 7. I had a fantastic teacher then, called Mr. Wade and… this was about a hundred years ago, of course, since I was in grade 7… and he was very big on creative writing. That’s where my love for writing began. And regarding ideas, you’re very right, there’s a thematic thread running through my stuff…Themes of disability, which is related to my son, who’s on the autism spectrum. My son is sort of in the middle of the spectrum, which is different from Perry in “Are You Seeing Me?” who is on the more, what we call, higher-functioning end with some intellectual disability. And our son is very different from that, which is interesting because some people think that folks on the spectrum are the same, which is certainly not the case. But, our son’s situation is very inspiring for me creatively. I can think in the perspective of a parent, a caregiver, and also in the perspective of my daughter who is the sibling—a twin—of somebody with a disability. I sort of took that to the nth degree. 

So, I tend to grab things close to home. I use things that are close to home and things that I think about a lot. In fact, a lot of people seem to think these books are sort of documentaries… people have asked me: are these your twins? Well, no. They’re not, not at all. You take hold of a few things, and the characters sort of run with it. They become they’re people. It’s a little bit of magic, and a little bit of grabbing things that are close to home, which is where my ideas generally come from.

So, for the characters Justine and Perry, are they based on your children or are they from your imagination?

Yeah, going back to what I said, I thought about my twins and thought… what would happen if they were left on their own? And that was the starting point. But from there, and I think a lot of authors have a similar mindset, from where you’ll start with something small and start to ask a lot of other questions which is what brings about a story… Suddenly I’ve got a novel on my hands. And I tend to be, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this but authors get categorized as plotters or pantsers… and I tend to be more of a pantser. I’ll sort of start with these ideas and then I’ll start writing to see where things take me. 

How are each of your books constructed differently or are they all constructed the same way?

Usually it tends to be where I have a general idea of the story from start to finish and during the writing process there may be some new ideas crafted along the way. But funnily enough I just finished writing the draft for a new book today and when writing this book I actually for the first time tried to be more of a plotter. I used a method I borrowed from my good friend Eileen Cook where I make a sort of timeline and plot everything out beforehand where it was talking about character and what was happening with the plot. I quite enjoyed it but I wouldn’t do that for every story. For stories that I did before the process of having a start and an end and then finding out as I go how I am going to fill it in has worked well for me.

Infinite Blue - Groth, Darren

How is it writing with other people?

Well, I wrote Infinite Blue with my brother Simon and the way it worked there was that I was kind of the project manager and oversaw the whole book and looked more at the big picture and then at times I would give Simon the wheel and let him work his magic with parts of the writing. Then I would go back to make sure it looked seamless as though one person had read this book. If the brothers Groth do another book in the future I think that Simon would take the role of manager because I know that he has an idea in the works of his own.

I noticed that in both “Are You Seeing Me?” and “Munro vs. the Coyote” The location, Fair Go is Used. What is the significance of Fair Go in both of these books?

Munro Vs. the Coyote - Groth, Darren

Once I finished “Are You Seeing Me?” Our son was getting a little older and was starting towards the end of his high school career. I started thinking about what happens to mentaly challenged kids once they are out of high school? What is our son going to do after high school? Because high school works kind of like a security blanket and can set kids into thinking that it’s always going to be like this, of course it’s not. This led me to think about the place of Fair Go that I had created. I was thinking about what this place would be like, what would it look like, who would be there, what sort of values would they have there. With Fair Go I decided to make it a place where the residents would be taken care of but could also have agency and think for themselves. “Munro vs. the Coyote” all really started with me having the setting of Fair Go and me wanting to explore and figure out what this environment is all about.

You were talking about how in “Munro vs. the Coyote” the first scene you wrote was not the first scene in the book, it was kind of in the middle. Do you do stuff like this often?

Sometimes, it kind of varies from story to story. Sometimes I use a scene That I wrote for the middle of the story at

the start of the book which I return to later in order to kick the story off where the stakes are raised. But more often than not I start writing at the beginning of the story. Every time I start writing I am starting off fresh. I have books that I have done and stories that I have finished and should know what I am doing but the truth is I don’t know what I am doing. When you start a new story you might have more tricks and a little more faith in your ability compared to the last time you wrote but really each story is its own animal and you tame it to the best of your ability hoping that it’s going to come together in a way that makes sense to the idea that first brought it about.

We want to thank Mr. Groth for his time and lovely insights into the world of writing!

Teen SRC 2021 – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Hi everyone! So I looked at my review history and I actually wrote one for Red Queen (Book 1 of the series) in 2017!? That’s wild. But anyway, it also means that this is long overdue, but I sincerely hope my writing has at least improved to make up for it!

*SPOILER ALERT!* I will talk about things that happened in Red Queen, so if you have yet to read Book 1, please do that first!

“No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance.”

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard is the second book in a scintillating fantasy series. It follows Mare, Cal, and the Scarlet Guard as they figure out their next steps after the intended execution in the Bowl of Bones that didn’t end as planned. Things are grave, seeing as Maven and Queen Elara have planted a huge target on the backs of the exiled prince and the little lightning girl, convincing the world that they murdered the late King Tiberias.

The story itself definitely wasn’t as good as Red Queen, but to be fair, not many sequels can beat their predecessors. Despite that however, it certainly wasn’t bad. It was a fast-paced, plot-driven book, and I enjoyed the re-read! I think the only thing that threw me off was the characters. I didn’t connect with them very much, and Mare is far from my favourite protagonist. However, I do have to commend Ms. Aveyard on her ability to write realistically, because humans are flawed, and she was able to portray that through her characters, even in such a wildly supernatural world.

Glass Sword felt a lot like a preparatory book for King’s Cage (which I will try to write a review for as well). It was great in its own way, but nothing substantial really occurred. It was also a tad bit overdramatic at times, but that did add to the atmosphere, so no complaints from me LOL.

Overall, I would rate this novel a solid 7/10. It has all the components of a great dystopian/fantasy novel; it simply pales in comparison to the first book. There are some brutal scenes that may be hard to read, but other than that, I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy/superpowers, and wouldn’t mind a side of romance!

Teen SRC 2021 – The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Captive Kingdom (The Ascendance Series, Book 4) eBook : Nielsen,  Jennifer A.: Kindle Store

The Captive Kingdom by Jennifer A. Nielsen is the final installment of the Ascendance series. This story follows Jaron and his crew on sea, when he gets attacked be the Prozarians who are a people that were presumed to all be dead from the plague. Jaron soon found out about why they were being captured along with his long lost brother, who was also presumed to be dead.

By the time I read this book, I was a tad bit disappointed. Due to how Jaron acts, the story always follows the same route. It goes, something bad happens to Jaron, something bad happens to Imogen, Jaron pulls some slight of hand or mind trick, a miracle happens, and a good ending appears. I didn’t really like the book due to how predictable it was after reading three of the books beforehand. I would recommend this book to anyone who really loves the Ascendance series and wants closure for what happened to everyone.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski follows Kestrel as a seventeen year old girl and a general’s daughter. Her destiny is already set for her; join the military or get married. However, her still naive mindset from being sheltered all her life, has different ideas and paths that could cause an avalanche of disasters. Each mistake takes the price of hundreds of lives, each choice comes with harsh consequences, and how much will it take for her grow out her shell and open her eyes to the cold, back stabbing world.

“But when you are faced with only two choices— the military or marriage—don’t you wonder if there is a third, or a fourth, or more, even, than that?”

The story is set in a world where war is at the edge of commencing, with rebellions standing up after the Valorians, white and fair, raided and overtook the land, enslaving the surviving Herrani, dark skinned and native to the land. Her less open minded friend dragged her out to a slave auction resulting in Kestrel impulsively buying Arin after learning about his ability to sing. This is one of the many choices her naive mind caused as she had made two mistakes here; buying a slave she has no need for making her engage in unnecessary problems, and buying him for a ridiculous price, thus the title “The Winner’s Curse.”

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Series, Book 3): Nielsen, Jennifer A.:  8601420074835: Books -

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen is the third book of the Ascendance Series, following King Jaron, the king of Carthya. Avena, Gelyn, and Medenwal are waging war against Carthya, and Jaron knew that there was a spy in his ranks. To counter this, Jaron fakes an argument with his army captain to make the other countries think that they are disorganized, then they launched an infiltration attack on Avena. Jaron was captured, and the story follows his stories in there.

There were many close calls in the book along with exciting twists and tragic deaths. I loved this series due to its captivating language as well as the close attention to detail that is written in the book. I would recommend this book to the fans of The False Prince and The Runaway King.

Teen SRC 2021 – Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

In the kingdom of Astrea, Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara was imprisoned and inside her own palace since the day her mother, the Queen of Fire, was murdered by the conquering and merciless Kalovaxians. She was merely 6 years old when the Kaiser invaded her land and destroyed her family. Ever since Theo was forced into the title “Ash Princess” to insult the Astreans and the suffering country. Regardless, Theo kept grasping on the speck of hope that someone will rescue her from the horrid palace and aid her in reclaiming the throne. Now, 10 years have passed and Theo finally realized she needed to take action herself against the Kaiser and fight for her kingdom again. Throughout these years, Theo witnessed her people perish and land being abused. She is determined to take revenge and revolt on the battlefield against the malicious Kaiser.

At first, I was intrigued in this book because I hoped to see Theo grow into a powerful female lead. However, the book displayed her as a cowardly, naive, and indecisive girl despite the traumas she had experienced. I was also quite skeptical about the teen romance involved because everything seemed childish for a young adult fantasy novel. Even the names of the people, objects, and land were unnecessarily long and strange. I did not like this book because I think the reading and comprehension level is too simple for me.

You can find Ash Princess here and more of Laura Sebastian here

Teen SRC 2021 – The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen


The Runaway King is the sequel to The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. As a quick recap, Sage has been found out to be prince Jaron, and he is now ruling the kingdom. His entire family was poisoned by Conner and he is the only person left to be the king. As king, he is now facing war against Avenia, and opposing country, and the pirates inside.

Their country’s army isn’t large enough, so Jaron went to the pirates in hopes of recruiting them. This story unfolds spectacularly, revealing twists and turns that I didn’t think possible. Jaron is an exiting character to write about because his is incredibly reckless with crazy plans that somehow work out in his favor in a twist of fate.

I enjoyed this story a lot due to the beautiful “romance” and adventures that the characters have in there. I would recommend this book to anyone who has read and enjoyed “The False Prince” because it’s the sequel.

Teen SRC 2021 – The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The False Prince (The Ascendance Series, Book 1): Nielsen, Jennifer A.:  9780545284141: Books -

The False Prince, a book by Jennifer A. Nielsen, is about a boy called Sage who lives in the kingdom of Carthya. He is caught stealing and bought by a nobleman by the name of Bevin Conner along with three other orphan boys called Roden, Tobias, and Latamer. They soon realize that they are going to be forced to pretend to be the prince since all other royal family members have gone missing. They will pretend to be the prince Jaron, who had gone missing at a young age and was presumed to be dead, although no body was found.

Although I read the second book first, this book still held many surprises. It explained why so many of the characters acted they way they did. I thoroughly enjoyed it, since it had many action scenes as well as interesting twists and turns. I highly recommend this book to avid readers of fantasy.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Kingdom Of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back is a historical and fantasy novel that portrays Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart’s life through 18th-century Europe as the older sister of the legendary musician, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Nannerl was also a talented musician and composer, but young women were forbidden to compose music; therefore, she had no chance to be remembered or honoured as a respectable musician. However, her beloved brother Wolfgang was easily shining brighter every day and stealing all the fame she should have received as well. Nannerl was extremely afraid to be overshadowed by her equally gifted brother since he began his successful music career at 5 years old. Furthermore, the gender inequality in their society oppressed her as a female and her future lies in a marriage, not music. She felt utterly despaired until a mysterious princeling boy from a magical land came to offer her a divine bargain to make her dream come true. 

I enjoyed this book because I was fascinated by how Marie Lu incorporated magic, music, and fantasy into a historical novel. She also revealed Nannerl’s intricate and complex personality through numerous aspects. Most importantly, I was very surprised to find out that the famous pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had an older sister who he admired and loved so much. I appreciate that Marie Lu brought her existence to life and understand her struggles as a girl during 18th century Europe.