Well it’s official, February is the best month of 2018 (so far). We have so many amazing YA releases hitting shelves over the next few weeks, it’s like an avalanche of awesomeness!!
Our book of the month is Tempests and Slaughter by her royal majesty, Queen Tamora Pierce. The first book in a new series, this one was a real treat for me.
We also have a sensational array of new titles from bestselling and debut authors alike. There’s something to please everyone this month so get browsing, start buying and most of all… happy reading!! Read on reviews for some of the best new YA reads.
Reviews by Sarah McDuling
Bear with me for a moment while I rave obsessively…
Tamora Pierce was one of my favourite authors when I was growing up and she remains one of my favourite authors to this day. I grew up idolising the heroines of her books and owe so much of my reading taste (and love of books in general) to her writing. She always brings a unique brand of magic to her stories – the characters she creates somehow always feel like friends and the world of Tortall feels like home. Though many authors have been influenced by her and cite her as an inspiration, there’s really no-one else like her. She’s an untouchable queen of all that is awesome!
I’m a huge fan, is what I’m saying.
I was excited about Tempests and Slaughter as soon as I heard about it, purely because it’s Tamora Pierce and until the day I depart this world I am always going to be excited whenever Tamora Pierce releases a new book. This particular book, however, is extra exciting because it happens to be an origin story detailing the early years of Arram Draper (AKA Numair Salamin).
Fans of Tamora Pierce will be delighted by the idea of a Numair prequel, but the beauty of this book is that it will hold just as much appeal for people who have never read a Tamora Pierce book in their lives (poor souls). You don’t need to be familiar with the character to be captivated by this spellbinding tale of a young boy training to master his extraordinary gift and become the realm’s most powerful mage. Admittedly, there is a lot dramatic irony at play for those who have read The Immortals Quartet. The growing friendship between Arram, Varice and Ozorne is going to read very differently for people who know what happens to them later in life. And yet I still believe this is a book that will enchant fans and newcomers alike because that’s the magic of Tamora Pierce!
This is an author who knows precisely how to lure readers into another world and then deep dive into character development so subtle and graceful that you will be ready to sell your soul to protect the main character by the end of the first chapter. I didn’t think I could love Numair any more that I already did when I picked up Tempests and Slaughter but I was wrong. My love for Arram (or “my precious baby Numair” as I like to think of him) knows no bounds.
This book is great. This book is perfect and wonderful. This book is the first in a new series (thank God there will be more!) and I really cannot recommend it highly enough.
This is the ideal read for fans of Garth Nix, Isobelle Carmody, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia C. Wrede Leigh Bardugo, Rae Carson, Laini Taylor, Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, and this is rapidly turning into a list of my favourite authors. Just trust me and buy this book and all the books by every above-mentioned author. I promise you won’t regret it! Learn More.
Jeepers creepers and holy moly! This book really did a number on me.
The Hazel Wood is best described as eerie, mesmerising and beautifully haunting… and also dark, twisted and strange. I struggled to put this book down, and the weird thing is that I’m not totally sure why? It’s almost as though Melissa Albert put me into a trance. I had to continue reading, even though the book often made me feel downright unsettled and weirdly tense. I just had to keep going because I was a slave to the story.
In many ways, The Hazel Wood is a bit of a slow burn. It takes a while for the action to kick in but it’s worth the wait. The plot may not move quickly, but the writing is hypnotic, the characters are compelling (if not always likable) and the world is a grim and shadowy place full of lurking threats and hidden secrets. It’s a dark fairytale wrapped in a mystery with a generous dollop of horror and suspense.
Alice has lived her whole life on the road, running from “bad luck”. Forced to keep moving from town to town with her erratic mother, she has never known a real home. Her grandmother is the author of a book of fairytales that has gathered a cult following over the years. When her grandmother dies and her mother is kidnapped, Alice is left with only a dire warning, “Stay away from the Hazel Wood”. And yet the Hazel Wood is the only place she can go if she wants to save her mother …
This book is super creepy and probably not a book you should read alone after dark… unless you want to give yourself some vivid nightmares. I found it both utterly bewitching and deeply unnerving. Though the conclusion could have served as a final ending to the story, I am delighted to know that there will be a sequel (though there is no title or release date yet, damn it!).
Perfect for fans of Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maggie Stiefvater. Learn More.
Sara Barnard is such a delight. She writes lovely, heartfelt stories full of intense emotion and honesty. I adored A Quiet Kind of Thunder and picked up Goodbye, Perfect fully expecting to have my heartstrings savagely yanked in every direction. And that’s exactly what happened!
Goodbye, Perfect is the story of a young girl called Eden whose best friend, Bonnie, has run away from home with her boyfriend… a boyfriend who also happens to be her music teacher. If the thought of a tortured student/teacher romance has you cringing or rolling your eyes, don’t despair! This is not that kind of book. The student/teacher relationship in Goodbye, Perfect is never romanticised. It is portrayed appropriately as a serious crime and the burden of truth is placed on Eden as the only person who can tell the police how to find Bonnie and bring her home.
It might seem like a no brainer. When your best friend has gone on the run with a teacher and the police are knocking at your door, surely the only thing to do is tell the authorities everything you know? Eden knows where Bonnie is, but she is a loyal friend who has been sworn to secrecy. Best friends don’t tell. Betraying Bonnie is unthinkable and yet… maybe keeping her secret isn’t the best way to be a true friend?
Eden’s inner turmoil and conflict is depicted with real care and sensitivity. This is a story about friendship and loyalty and right and wrong. It’s about learning to trust your instincts and to listen to your conscious. And most of all, it’s another heartrending read from an author with a marked talent for playing havoc with emotions.
Perfect for fans of Emery Lord, Nicola Yoon and Jenn Bennett. Learn More.
Between Us is a deeply moving and thoughtfully written story that explores the lives of asylum seekers in Australia. It’s the kind of story that really needs to be told more often. It put in mind books like The Bone Sparrow and When Michael Met Mina in that it uses poignant and evocative storytelling to cast a spotlight on the issues of immigration and multiculturalism – in particular the treatment of asylum seekers in this country.
Between Us doesn’t pull any punches. Clare Atkins is unfailingly and sometimes brutally honest, which is what makes this story so powerful. This is a heartbreaking portrayal of what life is like for detainees and also touches on the impact that working in these inhumane places can have on people. It wades into all the messy grey areas and never offers any rose-coloured viewpoints. The characters are layered and nuanced, lovable and relatable, fallible and most of all very human.
Set in Darwin, this is the story of Ana – an Iranian asylum seeker who is permitted to leave the Wickham Point Detention Centre on weekdays to attend school – and Jono, a Vietnamese Australian boy whose father works as a guard at the detention centre.
When Ana and Jono meet and become close, Jono’s father grows concerned. After all, what does he really know about Ana and her family? Can she be trusted? Does he really want his son associating with an Iranian refugee?
Between Us is a very raw and emotional read that made me cry more than once. The writing switches between prose and verse which gives it a lyrical quality that is truly beautiful to read. Full of complex and deftly drawn characters, it tells a moving story that will hit you hard and stay with you long after the book is over.
Perfect for fans of Melina Marchetta, Cath Crowley, Alice Pung and Fiona Wood. Learn More.
Reviews by Tanaya Lowden
It seems like one of the cool new trends in YA fiction these days is for fantasy stories set in the desert. I’ve read quite a few of them, and have enjoyed them all immensely, so I had a pretty good idea going into Reign the Earth that this would be right up my alley. What I didn’t know going into this book however, is just how much I would end up loving it.
Reign the Earth is a truly wonderful story. Whilst I’m not sure if this is completely suitable for all YA readers – the younger end of the YA spectrum may struggle with the dark and confronting themes – I definitely think this has the potential to be a big hit.
Reign the Earth follows Shalia, a daughter of the desert who has agreed to marry Calix, the King of the adjoining kingdom, in order to bring peace and freedom from the war their people have been fighting. Soon, Shalia learns that Calix is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. When her growing feelings towards her husband’s brother unleashes a power over the Earth she never knew she possessed, her whole world is in danger, and the peace she’s tried so hard to keep is at risk.
As I mentioned, this book has some dark themes. The relationship between Shalia and Calix is quite abusive, and very confronting. Calix is a power-hungry ruler and easily keeps others in their rightful places. Whilst his behaviour is sometimes difficult to read, it is monumental in Shalia’s empowering character development.
Whilst all the characters in Reign the Earth are complex and detailed, Shalia by far was the star of this novel. She has a caring and gentle demeanor, but is also fierce and brave, and she really goes on one hell of a ride filled with the best and worst emotions. What I wasn’t expecting was for her to have such a stance on feminism, but I really enjoyed seeing her stand up to her abusive husband and to question and champion the role of women in this world. It was something new brought to the YA desert trend, and one that paid off well.
Perhaps the major standout of this novel is the relationships the characters have with one another. A strong sense of family is evident throughout the story, and all the fun dynamics between the range of characters really added to my enjoyment of the book. In particular, the slow burn romance between Shalia and her husband’s brother, Galen, had me ripe with anticipation. I had forgotten how lovely a slow romance could be in a genre that has taken a particular liking to insta-love relationships.
This book really had me on the edge of my seat, particularly in the last 100 pages. I felt a whole range of emotions, from excitement to devastation, frustration to happiness, and this to me is the sign of a good book – one that can make you feel something.
The only complaint I have about Reign the Earth is that I want so much more of this story now! I need to know what will happen next, and the long wait to the sequel will be incredibly arduous. Perfect for fans of Rebel of the Sands and The Wrath and the Dawn, Reign the Earth is a YA read you didn’t realise was missing from your life. Learn More.
The City of Brass is one of the best books I read in 2017, and I’m so glad it has finally released because I want everyone to read it and love it as much as I do.
Set in eighteenth century Cairo, The City of Brass follows Nahri, a young con woman who has never believed in magic, and Ali, a young djinn prince who lives in the magical hidden city of Daevabad. When Nahri accidentally summons a mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s suddenly forced to accept that magic is indeed real, and that she is bound to it in ways she never would have expected.
Something to note about The City of Brass is that it is actually an adult fantasy title, however, it has a strong crossover appeal with the YA audience and can definitely be enjoyed by them. In saying this, the younger side of YA may struggle a little bit with the book.
The most fantastic thing about this book is Chakraborty’s writing. The prose is stunning, with elegant and rich descriptions; the world that’s crafted is detailed and meticulous; the characters are complex and flawed; and the conflicts that occur are so two-sided that I found my stance on the matter diverging between the two as more information was revealed. Simply put, The City of Brass is a masterpiece.
I had a lot of fun reading this book, and this is in part due to the characters. Nahri in particular was such a joy to read, and I love that her character has so much depth. Ali was also enjoyable to read, and seeing him deal with his inner turmoil between doing what’s right and doing what is expected of him took him on a great character arc.
If all of the above isn’t enough to convince you as to why you should read this book, than let the cover be the final argument. The cover is so stunning and detailed and absolutely beautiful (trust me, the website does not do it justice!).
The City of Brass is a definite must-read, and one I will be rereading over and over again. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel! Learn More.
Covering everything from a sweet and lighthearted romance, to the impacts of a devastating terrorist crime, Love, Hate & Other Filters is a coming-of-age story about Maya, an Indian-American muslim teen.
There has been a strong call from YA readers for more diverse books, and it’s so great to see the publishing industry embracing this. Love, Hate & Other Filters is an #OwnVoices story, and I absolutely loved getting to read and learn more about Indian culture. This was one of my favourite parts about this book, and I can’t wait to read more YA contemporaries with different voices in them.
This book was such a quick, fun read but also didn’t shy away from the harder topics. Maya was a delight to read about – she was intelligent, creative, and incredibly passionate, and she was so easy to relate to. I wanted to just give her a hug because some pretty awful things happen to her. Throughout it all she maintained her strength and didn’t let fear impact upon her passion, and I think this was a really beautiful message.
Love, Hate & Other Filters is the perfect example of the kind of stories the YA genre needs in this modern world. This is an absolute must-read! Learn More.
About the Contributor
Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.
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