Notable YA Reads of May, June & July

Eeek! I’m so terribly behind on updating this blog. Apologies! So much for the grand reading plans I had for when I went part-time at work. Somehow I managed to read more on full-time hours – don’t ask me how that works.

I have had the opportunity to read some great YA books these past three months, so without further ado:

MAY

fallforanything

Courtney Summers is up there as one of my favourite contemporary YA writers, and Fall For Anything was a beautiful, raw, emotional read. I loved this cast of characters, the mystery in the plot and the writing is stunning as always.

tamingofthetights

The Taming of the Tights is probably my favourite so far in the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series by Louise Rennison. I spent a few nights tucked under the covers, snorting uncontrollably at Tallulah and Gang’s latest antics. If you haven’t picked up a Louise Rennison book, do it now – hysterical laughter is good for the soul.

halfbad

Maybe I’m calling it too early, but this could be my favourite read of the year. Half Bad by Sally Green had such a unique, quirky voice that pulled me in right from page one. The world of White and Black witches is unlike any I’ve read before and I was quite enchanted with it. If you love Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, I think this will be up your alley.

JUNE

June was the month for contemporary Aussie YA!

everybreath

I forgot how much I liked mystery books! When I was a kid, I devoured the Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Spy Kids, Secret Seven series, but as I grew up I don’t think there was a cross-over into young adult, and I think I was always too much of a wuss to read adult crime fiction as I don’t do gore so well. But Every Breath is the perfect cross over! Great plot, great characters and a hell of a good read. And the Mycroft/Watts tension killed me! Looking forward to reading Every Word.

headoftheriver

Head of the River is my favourite contemporary Aussie YA this year so far. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the world of competitive rowing. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like the book for that reason, but I was so surprised at how interesting I found it, and once I picked it up I didn’t put it down. I thought Pip Harry did a great job at the brother/sister POVs and I could distinguish the two quite well and loved both character arcs.

JULY

shimmer

Paula Weston’s The Rephaim series is just so good! Hands down my favourite paranormal series by an Australian author. The third book, Shimmer, did not disappoint. It was great to get more of an insight into the Sanctuary. I love all the characters in this series and their relationships (Jude/Gaby, Gaby/Rafa, even Gaby/Daniel! Almost felt sorry for him in this book!). I love that the mystery deepens and that there are more questions than answers but I’m still satisfied. And that ending! Argh!

ruinandrising

I loved this world right from the beginning of Shadow and Bone, and I’m kind of sad that it’s all over now! Ruin and Rising was a brilliant end to the trilogy. The setting is the no. 1 thing I will gush about, but I really thought the characterisation over this whole series was fantastic too. I do wish publishers would get over the whole trilogy thing, though, because I would gladly read more books in a series that fleshes out the plot a bit more over a longer period- not that that plot is a weakness with R + R, more just a comment of YA trilogies in general (and general sadness that the series has ended). Definitely one of my favourite YA fantasy series ever.

Notable YA reads of April

My favourite read this month was the third and final installment of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters.Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)

I loved this series. I loved the ending to the series. There have been many trilogies I’ve read where the third book really let down the whole trilogy. Not Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Laini Taylor has created the most incredible world/s, with stand-out, lovable characters (and support characters). Her writing is stunning and her story full of hope. My favourite YA paranormal/fantasy this year.

Notable YA reads of March

I didn’t read as many YA books as I usually would this month because I spent most of it devouring the 800+ pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which I thought was brilliant despite being literary fiction ;-).

I also didn’t get a chance to read any 2014 releases this month, but I finally got around to reading:

The Messenger

You thought I’d have learned my lesson after The Book Thief (which I avoided for years because everyone talked about it so much and then ended up LOVING). I put The Messenger off for so long too, and it makes me sad to think I could’ve experienced it so many years before now. Oh well. I love Zusak’s writing. I love his characters. This story was remarkable. (As a side note: this is what I wish all ‘New Adult’ (still don’t know how I feel about labelling this category) was like – not the smutty crap being pumped out in bucket loads right now. It’s in the same vein as Raw Blue by Kristy Eagar, Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo and The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta)

My second recommendation that I read in March is:

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)

It wasn’t perfect, but overall I quite liked the story and the world in which it is set (think Titanic meets Across the Universe by Beth Revis – at least that’s what I was imagining). It was a page turner for me. I’m really interested to see how the trilogy works with having different main characters for each story (or so it seems), as I’m probably a bit over trilogies now.

Notable YA reads of Jan/Feb

January

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is an auto-buy author for me, and when I found out The Impossible Knife of Memory was released earlier in AU than the US, I tracked it down quick smart. And it did not disappoint. Anderson writes in a way one can only be envious of. The book itself is heartbreaking and marvelous, bringing light to the not-all-that-understood issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and the impact it has on families.

February

The Intern

Gabrielle Tozer‘s The Intern is a heartfelt and easy read. I really enjoyed Josie’s voice; she’s a kind, genuine character who has a refreshing outlook on the world. I was also surprised at how I wanted to read more about the magazine world (I really thought I wouldn’t be interested in this).

The Last Girl

The Last Girl by Michael Adams  is intense and action-packed. And such a cool concept. Recently I’ve been contemplating just how much I want social media in my life. Coming from an applied linguistics background (nerd alert), I’ve always been interested in how the amount of input we receive (especially via the interwebz) can manipulate our thoughts and language, to the point that it actually scares me a little. This book did not put my fears at ease! Looking forward to the sequel coming out in March.

Top Ten International YA Reads of 2013

As it’s December, Triple J announced that it’s time to start thinking about our Top 10 songs to vote for in the Triple J Hottest 100. And I thought, while I’m sorting out my fave songs of the year, I may as well do the same for books I’ve read in 2013. I have to separate International from Australian because I have too many favourites this year. Top Aussie picks will be posted later this month (need to read a few more Aus books before the end of the year!)

10. Bunheads by Sophie Flack

9. Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo

8. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

7. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

6. Just One Day/Just One Year by Gayle Forman

5. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

(finally got around to this one and wish I had read it earlier)

4. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone/ Days of Blood and Starlight

2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
(She just ups the bar on each book she writes!)

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

(Definitely the only book this year where I chose reading over much needed sleep)

latest Aussie YA faves

I want to share some of the Aussie young adult books I’ve read lately and thought were absolutely brilliant. I’m not your conventional reviewer (Goodreads has plenty of great reviewers), but I’m going to share some of what I took from each book.

girl defectiveGirl Defective by Simmone Howell

This was my first Simmone Howell book, and I’ve since read Notes from a Teenage Underground, which was just as great. Girl Defective is set in Melbourne, and it quenched my homesickness. I like how it questions some of the traits in our culture today, like the ability to stick at something/be committed to something  (I’m not sure if the author intended this, but it’s what I got out of it.). I love this observation by the main character:

“She didn’t get it. She had no family, she moved around. She was like that Rolling Stones song ‘Ruby Tuesday’ — I used to think it was exotic, but now I wasn’t so sure. If you lived like that, what was to stop you from disappearing altogether?”

shadowshazeThe Rephaim Series #1 and #2 by Paula Weston

Wow! Just wow. I’ve avoided angel books for a while because I read one or two not-so-great series, but this was highly recommended by some Goodreads friends, and it does not disappoint.
Reason Number 1 you must read this series: Rafa.
Reason Number 2: it has a complex, intriguing and unpredictable plot.
Sometimes I think with YA there is this idea that a plot can’t be too intricate, but this is not the case with Shadows and Haze. Page turners for sure. Also, it’s the first paranormal Aussie series that I’ve ‘believed’. I don’t know why, but I think in my head paranormal must be set in the US to be ‘believable’ (because crazy supernatural things happen in America every day, right?), but Paula did such a good job at convincing me that sexy angels can turn up in Aus just as they might the US.

thewholeofmyworldThe Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes

I finished this last night and I cannot stop thinking about it. I grew up in a family obsessed with AFL. I have seven brothers and each one plays/played footy, some at the state/reserve level, and this book just brought home so many memories! It deals with some sensitive issues extremely well, and I loved the main character, who was not at all angsty even though she was trying to cope with grief and the usual dramas that come with being a teenager. I think it’s an extremely important book for young Australians to read, especially as it sheds light on the footy culture: the good aspects as well as the bad.

Review — Girl Saves Boy, Steph Bowe

I would love to use this blog to promote good Australian YA. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been home in two years, but I crave contemporary YA set in Australia. It brings back so many memories and reminds me how much I really do like being an Australian. I just finished Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe. I’m not going to give a recap of what the book’s about; the blurb on Goodreads — and many other reviewers — do a way better job than I could. I’ll just share my thoughts about the novel.

girlsavesboy

This was a really sweet story. I thought the relationship between the two protagonists was magical. I loved the supporting characters, too. Stories that have a strong supporting cast always have more of an impact on me than those that just purely focus on the main characters. Overall, I found the plot a little weak, but I think that’s because I like overly dramatic climaxes in a story (which says more about me than Bowe’s skills as a writer). I guess I felt the story revealed too much too soon and this effected how I interpreted the climax of the novel.  Bowe’s writing, however, is lyrical and beautiful and I look forward to reading her next book, All This Could End.