Tag Archives: YA novel

Wishlist Wednesday: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This book will be the first in a new duology from best-selling author Laini Taylor. I absolutely ADORED her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so naturally I am very excited about new material from her.

One of the things I loved most about Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series was the way she writes and her use of language. It is so beautiful to read, and her descriptions are very vivid and very realistic (when it came to the real world locations!).

Much like The Song Rising, Strange the Dreamer had a delayed publication date. It was originally slated for a September 2016 release, but it then got pushed back to March 2017, the reasons for which are outlined here. Naturally, as soon as someone says I can have something and then makes me wait even longer for it, the more I want that item!

Mostly, I am putting this book on my wishlist because it has intrigued me. The title itself had grabbed me; Is ‘Strange’ a name? Is it just an artistic, incomplete sentence? What meaning does the title hold to the story? And then there is the plot summary on Goodreads:

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

 

WELL! If that isn’t mysteriously tantalising enough to grab your interest, then I don’t know what is. Personally, the addition of a librarian just increased my interest! This sounds to me like more fabulous YA fantasy goodness!

 

The Australian publication date for Strange the Dreamer is 28th March 2017.

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Top Ten Tuesday: #LoveOzYA

When I was in high school, I didn’t read much young adult fiction. This was largely due to the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount of it around. Even more disappointing, very little of it was by Australian authors. Thankfully, times have changed and Australian young adult authors are gaining a lot of recognition, not just in Oz but also on an international stage. Check out the #LoveOzYA hashtag on social media for more Aussie YA goodness!

N.B. The following list is in no particular order.

illuminae-files#1 The Illuminae Files Series by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

So, this trilogy currently only has two of the books published, but if the first two are anything to go by, the third is going to me AMAZING! Each book in this series focuses on a different teenage duo (male/female) who are living through and experiencing the same invasion in outer space, but from a different aspect. This series, apart from having an amazing story with lots of twists, is brilliant because it is not told in the traditional narrative format – each book is a report/dossier that is made up of various documents, dossiers, pictures and transcripts. In this way, the story is told in a very unique and engaging way.

#2 Frankie by Shivaun Plozza27193294

As I previously outlined in last weeks Top Ten Tuesday post, this book follows the story of its titular character, Frankie. She is a sassy, bad-ass character who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and the people she loves. The story itself is a real page-turner as Frankie tries to track down her missing half-brother. The characters felt real and the whole story felt uniquely Australian. A brilliant Oz YA read!

the-sidekicks#3 The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

I loved the idea of this story – three main characters who share a best friend, Isaac, but who aren’t really friends themselves. So what happens to them when Isaac dies? How do they cope when they don’t have anyone else apart from each other? Just like Frankie, this novel felt very Australian. There were many aspects of Sydney school life portrayed in the book that I remembered experiencing myself in high school. At the age of 27, I finally found a young adult book that I felt like I could relate to on a personal level.

#4 The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier26891896

This gorgeous book tells the story of Piper and West. Piper is the new girl at school and has Selective Mutism. West is the popular, sporty school captain. Whilst going through all the struggles of teenagers in their final year of high school, West and Piper fall in love. But how can you have a relationship with someone when you’ve never spoken a single word to them? Set in the Blue Mountains, and area not far from me, this book was just so beautiful to read. Very relatable and wonderfully packed with emotion!

y450-293#5 The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Five very different Year 12 teens, each feeling left behind or overlooked in their own way, are forced to work together on their school yearbook committee. Set in a western Sydney school, this novel explores many issues that teens face during their last year of school — the pressures of final exams, friendships, family issues, peer pressure and bullying — just to name a few. An extremely relevant and relatable book that I highly recommend for all teens.

#6 Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson9781760110277

This is a gorgeous contemporary YA novel that I absolutely loved! Astrid is pretty, smart, one of the most popular girls in school and a keen environmental activist. Hiro is an outcast with a pessimistic life outlook. However, when they accidentally meet at the local shopping centre, they find that they are able to bring out the best in each other. Full of comic book references, comedic moments and great environmental/life messages, this is a great Aussie read for fans of John Green & Rainbow Rowell.

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#7 The Spark Series – Rachael Craw

So TECHNICALLY Rachael Craw is a New Zealander, but I am invoking the right to partake in the age-old Australian tradition of adopting anything amazing that comes from NZ as being Australian. In an age where there is a saturation of young adult books where the protagonists have amazing abilities, this series is refreshingly original and gripping. Revolving around genetic engineering and predetermined genetic abilities, this is a suspenseful and action packed series!

#8 Tomorrow When The War Began Series – John Marsdentomorrow-when-the-war-began-series

An absolutely classic Australian young adult series! I remember my grade nine English teacher getting me onto this series, and I will be forever grateful. The series follows Ellie and her friends as they return from a bush camping trip to discover that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town taken prisoner. Gripping and action packed, this series is almost a right of passage for Australian teen readers.

the-book-thief

#9 The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Now famous the world over, I am going to sound completely hipster and say that I read this book before it was cool. The fact that a novel could be written from the point-of-view of someone who wasn’t the protagonist was a revelation for me. And when that someone’s point-of-view is Death… well, WOW! The use of language is elegant and refreshing, and the story itself is engaging, emotional and educational. The perfect homage to booklovers everywhere.

#10 Risk – Fleur Ferris24973955

This is a very important book. I really do feel it should be incorporated into the Australian National Curriculum as a prescribed text. It follows two best friends, Taylor and Sierra. They start chatting to a mystery guy on the Internet, and Sierra decided to meet him. Alone. Taylor covers for her, but when Sierra never comes back from the meeting, Taylor knows something is very, very wrong. A cautionary tale that is very topical and terrifyingly realistic.

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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I pride myself on the fact that I do read a large variety of books, by a variety of authors, in a variety of genres. However, if I were only allowed to read one book genre for the rest of my life (please don’t ever make me do this) it would be Young Adult (YA). If we were getting really particular, I would say specifically fantasy YA. I have great admiration for authors who are able to seemingly conjure everything – languages, countries, characters, history, maps, landscapes, creatures – out of nothing.

One of these fantasy YA epics is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

This series is one that I have only ever heard good things about. In fact, I have never actually heard anything negative about if from anyone who has read it. If that’s not a glowing commendation, then I don’t know what is. And I would be an idiot not to read it in light of this. So I decided to FINALLY pick up the first book, Throne of Glass (after which the series is named), and use my Christmas break to engross myself in the entire saga.

The story centers on 18-year-old Celaena Sardothien, a highly trained and notorious assassin who, having been captured, is serving out her sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. One day, Celaena is forcibly brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian Havillard. He gives her the opportunity of a lifetime – her freedom in exchange for competing to become his father’s royal assassin. If she is successful, Celaena will serve the King for four years before finally being set free.

Under the ever-watchful eye of Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, Celaena begins her training for the competition; a series of elimination tests, culminating in a final hand-to-hand combat showdown, in which a number of thieves, assassins and warriors will be battling to be crowned the King’s Champion. But there are darker, otherworldly forces at work, and one by one the other contestants start turning up dead. Fearing for her life, Celaena decides to investigate into the deaths, and soon discovers that she has a greater destiny and purpose than she could have ever possibly imagined.

I absolutely devoured this book! Straight off the bat, we are thrown into the thick of it, with Celaena being escorted under guard to her audience with Prince Dorian. And it just keeps getting better from there. Not once did I feel that the story dragged on, or wasn’t keeping a good pace. There is a good mix of adrenaline inducing action, and slightly more passive character and relationship development.

I also adore the character Celaena; she is my favourite thing about this book. I know YA literature is full of feisty, independent females, but I feel like Celaena takes the cake here. Yes, she is feisty and independent, but she is also smart, morally flawed (at least to start with), and incredibly sassy. Bonus, she doesn’t faint at the sight of blood or violence. Let’s face it; she’d be a pretty useless assassin if she did.

I also get a kick out of a good love triangle, and it certainly looks like there is one being set up here between Celaena, Prince Dorian and Captain Westfall. Although there is not too much made of it in this novel, I have a feeling that it will certainly be brought to the fore and explored in the rest of the series. For those wondering, I am definitely #TeamChaol all the way.

To be honest, I really have nothing negative to say about this book – it has everything that I need in a good YA fantasy series and then some. I guess I have converted into one of those people who will rave on and on about how wonderful this book is.

Now to start the next book in the series, Crown of Midnight.

Bring it on.

Rating: 10/10

Review: A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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As a bookseller, I can personally attest to the fact that Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series is very popular with customers. I had always entertained the idea of giving her books a try, but with my ever-growing ‘to-be-read’ pile, I kept putting it off. Then I heard that she would be heading to Australia later this year, and I knew the time had come.

And what better way to start than with an advance reading copy of the first book in her newest series,  A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Part fantasy saga, part love story, this book is a perfect example of the emerging ‘New Adult’ book genre, and is essentially a re-told version of Beauty and the Beast, with a bit of faerie lore thrown in for good measure.

The central protagonist and YA female heroine is Feyre, a nineteen-year-old girl who is the sole provider for her family. They live in near poverty just near the border between the human and faerie realms. While out hunting in the woods one day, Feyre kills a wolf. However, this was no ordinary wolf, and soon a huge beast-like creature is on her doorstep demanding retribution. Given the choice between dead and a life imprisoned in the faerie realm, Feyre chooses life. Her captor, the best-like creature, is in fact not an animal, but Tamlin, a very powerful, very deadly faerie lord.

As Feyre whiles away her sentence on Tamlin’s sprawling estate, she finds her feelings for him changing from those of hostility and near-hatred, to a genuine interest in him, and an intense desire for him. But there is trouble brewing in the world of the fae. An ancient power is slowly enveloping the lands, and threatens to boil over into the human realm. Feyre must find a way to stop it in order to save her family, the faerie world, and ultimately Tamlin.

As much as I am an absolute sucker for a good YA/New Adult fantasy book, I am always sceptical when a pick up a new one. This is mostly because there are just so many of these kinds of books around at the moment, and I am always afraid that when I start a new one, it will feel tired, and ‘been-done-before’, and that I won’t enjoy it because it doesn’t feel exciting and new anymore.

As such, I will freely admit that my expectations for this book were pretty low. I fully expected it to be just another YA-style fantasy novel, with predictable outcomes, an uninspired storyline, and cookie-cutter characters.

But A Court of Thorns and Roses surprised me, and it sucked me right in!

The thought of getting back to the book, and seeing what happened next is what got me through many days at work. I think this is definitely a sign that you are enjoying a book, and that it has captured your interest and imagination.

I actually really enjoyed how Sarah J. Maas has cleverly, and very creatively, reimagined and reworked the classic Beauty and the Beast story – you actually forget after a while that this is the creative basis for the story. Maas takes the storyline to such creative and inventive places that it becomes a story of its own, and you only really remember the Beauty and the Beast parallel when small elements of the original story are revealed. The characters are well written, and although Feyre was, at times, a little insufferable, I ultimately did really love her characterisation. Tamlin was the archetypal tortured male lead, but with a bit of a twist that made him an interesting character all on his own. I loved encountering all the different types of fae along the way, as well as the dispelling of some of the classic faerie myths and legends.

Fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series will enjoy her latest offering, as will fans of fantasy novels, and fractured fairytales. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

A Court of Thorns and Rose is due out in Australia on 7th May 2015.

Sarah J. Maas will be doing Q&A and signing sessions at the Brisbane and Adelaide Supanova conventions in November 2015. Check the Supernova website here for dates, times and updates.

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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Everyone knows the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

And it’s true. Sometimes the best, most memorable stories you read are the ones that did not necessarily have an eye-catching, or aesthetically pleasing cover.

So, in light of this, I feel that I must confess that I do, on occasion, judge a book (and make my decision whether to read it or not) based on its cover.

One such example is The Winner’s Curse. The cover immediately caught my attention, and so I felt I had no choice but to read it.

Kestrel is the daughter of a general in the vast Valorian Empire. Living in a war driven society, Kestrel knows that the law requires her to choose one of two life options: join the military like her father, or get married. Neither idea appeals to Kestrel, whose passion lies in playing the piano – a skill normally only permitted to be practiced by the Herrani slaves of the region.

One day, while in the city, Kestrel finds herself attending a slave auction. Kestrel senses something of herself in Arin, the Herrani slave for sale, and against her better judgement and common sense, Kestrel purchases him for an exorbitant sum. Kestrel starts developing feelings for Arin, and she finds this growing love strange and unnerving. However, Arin has secrets of his own and Kestrel soon discovers that a split second decision at a slave auction may cost her everything she has ever known and loved.

I love the idea behind this book, that of the winner’s curse phenomenon. It is an economic theory that basically states that at an auction, the winner, although having won the item for sale, has also lost because they have paid more for the item than what the majority of bidders have felt it was truly worth. Ultimately though, you never know what value the item may hold in the future, so the idea of the winner’s curse is about that very moment of winning.

I feel like I may have been a victim of the winner’s curse with this book.

While the idea behind this novel was great, the novel itself is a run of the mill young adult (YA) fantasy novel – think, a cross between A Game of Thrones and The Jewel, except less medieval and less dystopian. This book, for me, was okay. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible – it was just an average read. There was nothing different, nothing to distinguish it from every other YA fantasy/romance novel around at the moment. It’s a familiar formula that I have seen over and over again in one form or another – rich, elite girl falls for handsome, rogue slave. Their love makes them question their preconceived beliefs of society and the status quo. An uprising occurs which tests their love and their beliefs, and cue book two 12 months later.

I felt it difficult to connect with either Kestrel or Arin. Throughout the course of the novel, they both made decisions that were completely illogical, and made no sense whatsoever, and this is what made it so hard for me to relate to them in any way. Kestrel in particular was a rather frustrating character. She claims to want freedom and to defy social norms when it comes to her own life. However, as soon as anyone else – primarily Arin – wants things to be different, and actually starts to do something about it, Kestrel says it’s wrong, that it goes against societal values, and starts defending the way things are. I felt like yelling at her “You can’t have it both ways!”

In saying all that, the second half of the book was much more interesting than the first, as this is when things really start to kick off. The first half of the novel tended to plod along, and was cluttered with Kestrel’s inner turmoil, and Arin’s brutishness, whereas the second half of the novel is when the action starts to take place as the rebellion begins to get in to full swing.

I think that YA readers 14+ who enjoy this kind of novel will love it, but I felt for me, it just wasn’t as good as it had the potential to be.

Rating: 5/10

Review: This Is Not A Drill by Beck McDowell

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Even though I work in a bookstore, I still get excited about our post Christmas sale. Quite a few of our books that we haven’t been able to sell and can’t return to the publishers get reduced to bargain prices. So when I saw a copy of This Is Not A Drill sitting in our ‘Bargain Books’ section at a steal, I bought it without even thinking about it.

In this young adult (YA) novel, Emery and Jake are two high school students who are volunteer French tutors in a first grade classroom at the local junior school. One morning they find themselves involuntarily in the middle of a deadly hostage crisis – Brian Stutts, a returned soldier from Iraq, has walked into their classroom with a gun and is demanding to be allowed to take his son. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Stutts is drunk, agitated and highly volatile. Despite their own personal differences, Emery and Jake must work together in order to keep things calm – both the children and Stutts – as well as try and find a way to get help and get everyone out of the situation alive.

This story is told from Emery and Jake’s alternating viewpoints. This allows us as readers to see how each of them deals with the situation in the classroom, as well as providing two differing points of view on their shared, personal history together. Having two main characters, and therefore two main narration ‘voices’, also allows the novel to appeal in equal measure to both a male and female audience. This novel is definitely thought provoking and highly relatable to the YA reader on many different levels.

In this day and age, where gun-related crimes are prevalent in the media, This Is Not A Drill deals with some very topical and very real issues. How many times have we read about a gunman finding his way into a school in America? How many times have we seen footage of law enforcement surrounding a building where a gunman has gone on a shooting spree? Even closer to home for me, this novel made me think of the Martin Place Siege that took place in Sydney the week before Christmas last year. This novel also deals with the issue of PTSD in returned service men and women, and how it can be difficult and damaging, not just to the individual, but also to their loved ones. It leaves the reader thinking that a lot more needs to be done in order to help those who suffer from PTSD.

This novel was both suspenseful and thought provoking, two things that are not often found side by side in many YA novels. It is certainly something I hope to see more of in this genre! At only 222 pages, this novel is an easy read and will likely appeal to even those reluctant readers aged 12+.

Rating: 7/10

Review: Sway by Kat Spears

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Sway (verb)

to control or influence (a person or course of action).

    “He has a lot of sway over other people.”

     synonyms: influence, affect, persuade, win over, convert

——–

Now, even though this is a young adult (YA) book, I will admit it is probably not one that I would have picked up and read if it wasn’t for our lovely Pan Macmillan rep at work. She gave me a copy of this book without telling me what it was about, other than she thought it was the most underrated YA novel of 2014, and that it’s “like a John Green novel, but better.”

I think what she meant was, that it is like a John Green novel in that a slightly off-beat protagonist goes about their life with a ‘well, what can you do ‘ type attitude, only to have their world turned upside down by a member of the opposite sex, with whom they end up falling in love. And it’s true – Sway is definitely like a John Green novel in that way.

But in every other way it is completely different.

And definitely better.

Jesse Alderman, or ‘Sway’ as he’s known, is a high school student who has a talent of being able to obtain the unobtainable. He is able to get people the things they want, at the right price, naturally – completed essays, fake IDs, alcohol and a date with any girl in school. He does this through a network of contacts, favours and the ability to be able to talk his way into or out of any situation. He could probably sell ice to eskimos. School doesn’t interest Jesse – it is merely the location where he conducts most of his business transactions. He moves through life with an almost clinical coldness in order to avoid getting close to anyone except his best female friend and business associate, Joey.

However, everything threatens to unravel when Kevin, the captain of the school football team (who, to put it lightly, is a bit of a jerk) hires Jesse to get the school’s gorgeous do-gooder, Bridget, to become interested in him. Jesse strikes up an unlikely friendship with Bridget’s kid brother, who has cerebral palsy, and suddenly Jesse finds himself developing a bond him. Then to Jesse’s further surprise, while completing his assignment for Kevin, he begins to learn a lot about Bridget and her life, and finds himself falling in love with her. Maybe, Jesse has kept other people out of his life for long enough.

This is a contemporary and realistically gritty YA novel is written from Jesse’s point of view. As such, it is cynical, straight to the point, and full of truth and sarcastic humour. His views and observations of the world are clinical, harsh and sometimes quite depressing, but always realistic and logical. But as soon as Bridget comes into the picture, he is forced to confront a lot of his own demons and finally see that maybe it is worth feeling something after all.

Our Pan Macmillan rep challenged me not to like this book, and being the person that I am I cried, “Challenge accepted!”

And try I did.

From the first page to the last, I tried to not like this book.

And I failed.

This book has the kind of writing that I felt was missing from John Green’s novels – it’s realistic, smart, funny and brutal in it’s honesty and it’s themes. The character of Jesse is excellently written, and immediately you feel like you have gotten inside his head, seeing things the way he sees them. This is the kind of YA novel we have been waiting for without realising it. Ultimately it is the writing that makes this novel such a compelling read. It is definitely my pick for most underrated book of 2014.

Even though this book is a YA novel, I would definitely only recommend it for ages 16+ due to the nature of some of the themes and references in the novel.

Rating: 9/10