– Kay Kerr –
Published 28 September 2021
Once again, Kay Kerr delivers a powerful and thoroughly enjoyable contemporary novel about growing up and finding one’s place in the world. Drawing upon her own experiences again, Kerr crafts such a realistic portrayal of social anxiety and trying to navigate everyday interactions, from romance and friendship to family and work life.
Zoe Kelly has survived high school (just) and is starting a new part of her life. No more dealing with bullies, no more autistic masking. An internship at an online media company allows her the freedom to express herself through the written word – something she’s really good at. But when an article about her foray into the dating world goes viral, the responses are a surprise. Apparently, Zoe had a number of admirers in high school and she just never saw the signs. Determined to discover how she missed them and document the process, Zoe meets up with her admirers, starting with her best friend’s brother and working through to a more recent encounter at uni.
Social Queue was honestly just such a delight to read. Some books are just so easy to love. So easy to enjoy. So easy to pick up after a long day at work and just let the world slip away. Social Queue was that for me, but it was also meaningful, insightful, funny, delicious, romantic and hit me right in the “I see you” feels.
Beasts of Prey
– Ayana Gray –
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published 28 September 2021
A lush fantasy, Beasts of Prey is a beautiful as that cover (prettyyyy….). Beasts of Prey is set in an African-inspired fantasy world (and I loved that the author shared the significance of the mythology, culture and languages used in the world in her author’s note).
Koffi is an indentured servant. She and her mother are just months away from paying off their family debt and finally free themselves from the Night Zoo, where they work as beast keepers. But just when freedom is almost within their grasp, a dangerous power Koffi doesn’t truly understand, let alone know how to control, changes everything. Now she must journey into the Greater Jungle to face the most dangerous beast in the land. Ekon is just one task away from finally becoming a Son of the Six, an elite warrior. But when Ekon allows Koffi to escape from the Night Zoo and is shamed and forbidden from completing his entry into the warrior class, Ekon and Koffi unwillingly team up to hunt down the Shetani – the most feared beast in the land.
Defy the Night
– Brigid Kemmerer –
Published 14 September 2021
Okay, so Brigid Kemmerer is one of my all time favourite authors so it is completely unsurprising that I loved Defy The Night. Maybe not as much as I adore The Curse So Dark and Lonely, but that’s a pretty high standard of adoration to live up to and Defy The Night does not disappoint in any way – it’s just extremely stressful.
Tessa risks everything every night, sneaking into the Royal Sector to steal Moonflowers to make the only medicine that will keep the deadly illness at bay. In the Wilds there is never enough medicine or coins to go around but she and Wes, a fellow outlaw, do what they can. In the palace, Prince Corrick does what he can to keep his brother, the king, safe and barter for enough moonflowers. But being the King’s Justice is a bloody and endless job and it seems even his best efforts may not be enough to prevent a rebellion. Continue reading
Drawn That Way
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published 28 September 2021
As a fan of animated movies, Drawn That Way was a wonderful and fun insight into the magical and flawed world of animation. This is a delightful YA realistic novel that sucked me into the story and was just such a pleasure to read. You know how some books just make you smile? That’s this book. But along with the fun, flirtations, friendship and kissing, there are some powerful messages about challenging the racist, sexist systems, girl power and standing up for what you know is right.
Hayley Saffitz knows her future lies in the world of animation. The chance to spend the summer at an exclusive internship program with her idol and Oscar winning animator Bryan Beckett is everything she ever dreamed of and the chance to prove to everyone just how serious she is about animation. But when Hayley is overlooked for one of the director positions and Bryan’s son is given one of the direct positions without even presenting a finished pitch, Hayley realises the world of animation is biased. Determined to prove to herself – and the sexist men- that she deserves her chance, Hayley teams up with the other girls in the program to create their own short.
The Hawthorne Legacy
– Jennifer Lynn Barnes –
The Inheritance Games #2
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published 7 September 2021
The Hawthorne Legacy is the brilliant and thrilling sequel to The Inheritance Games by the incomparable Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It is perhaps no secret that I ADORE her writing, complex characters and skill for piecing together a compelling plot that twists, turns and endlessly surprises.
Once again, Jennifer Lynn Barnes has crafted a novel that is totally addictive and she makes me like – nay love – things I usually hate. Like love triangles. Of course, it is a love triangle involving two Hawthorne boys and a girl who doesn’t have time for either of them, so what’s not to love. But the romance is really just a small part of the book. We readers are taken on a thrilling ride as Avery recovers from the news she received in the last book. One puzzle might have been solved, but there are so many more still to unravel.
Books to Read if you Loved Harry Potter
It has to be the question I get most as a teacher librarian. What should I read after Harry Potter? After students discover their love for Harry Potter and have re read it a few times, worked their way through all the accompanying companion books, information books about how the movies were made, History of Magic, short stories, screen plays and novelty books (the ones with working wands have to be the top favourites), they finally reach a point of wanting something similar but different.
What to read if you liked Harry Potter is also something I deal with for older students. The Harry Potter books might have been the only books they have read. Or maybe the enjoyed the movies, don’t want to read the books but would be open to reading something similar. Having a few titles on hand to suggest is always handing. But searching the web, there must be a million suggestions for Harry Potter readalikes out there. Or, maybe you are a parent with a child who wants to read Harry Potter but you’d like to steer them towards something similar.
There are lots of lists with suggestions out there, so I am not going to recommend the usual suspects, like the Percy Jackson series. While these are perfect for Harry Potter lovers, you’ve probably already seen them in reading suggestion lists, so I am going to chose some of my favourite and more obscure recommendations, as well as books by Australian authors.
Middle Grade Readers
Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage
I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.
The other books in the series have different authors.
I would also highly recommend Angie Sage’s Magyk series for Harry Potter fans.
The Endless Skies
– Shannon Price –
Published 17 August 2021
If you are looking for a unique fantasy novel, then check out The Endless Skies by Shannon Price. The Endless Skies invites readers into a world where shapeshifting warriors who live on a city that floats in the sky and a community of shapeshifting magical beings protect themselves from the humans who seek to destroy all they know.
You might assume Endless Skies is all about Rowan from the book’s synopsis, but Endless Skies is actually written from three characters’ perspectives. Rowan is a narrator and she is joined by her sister and her best friend. Rowan is a warrior-elect. She has completed years of rigorous training and is about to be sworn in by the king to become an official warrior. Shirene is Rowan’s older sister. She is a sentinel and has just been named as the King’s Hand – a prestigious position of respect and authority. Rowan’s friend Callen is a warrior. He has long hidden his true feelings about Rowan from her, but now he fears it might be too late. On the eve of Rowan’s warrior oath-taking ceremony, the warriors learn of a deadly disease that is targeting the children of Heliana. Teams of warriors are called and sent down to the human world to look for a cure before the prince falls ill, which could be the literal downfall of Heliana. Left behind by her friend and sister, Rowan learns there is far more at stake than what the citizens are being told about the disease and the long-held feud between the Leonodai and humans.
There is a very unique world in The Endless Skies and yet with so much action and so much going on in the book, I feel like I only saw snippets. There are four magical shapeshifting communities, the Leonodai being our main focus in this book. There was also a fifth, but they were wiped out by humans. Rowan is a Leonodai and can change from female human form to a winged lioness. Cool magic enables her weapons and armour to change with her. Her community values loyalty over all and Rowan, Shirene and Callen have committed themselves to serving their city and their king. Their city, Heliana floats above the ocean, protected from the human’s reach and they in turn protect the other shapeshifting communities. While the Leonodai fight with blades, arrows and axes, the humans fight with guns, bullets and late, planes and battleships, which gives a unique mix of modern (or at least the 20th century, the human world has a very WW1 timeline feeling to it) and ancient warfare and a great mix between reality and magic, that we don’t often see in fantasy novels.
– Elayne Audrey Becker –
Published 31 August 2021
I don’t read fantasy novels all that often, but when I do I usually adore them. Forestborn was no different. It is an incredible quest novel. Our three main characters must travel together through perilous terrain, facing the things that haunt them and the pain from their past to find the rarest of magical powers to save the people they love. There is royalty, magic, very cool unique magical creatures, haters-to-lovers romance and a fantastic twist that I just didn’t see coming.
The magic in this book is unique, which I liked, as were the many magical creatures that pop up throughout the story. Rora is a shifter. As is her brother. Over time, Rora has shifted into her three different animal forms, mouse, hawk and lynx. Her brother has yet to shift into his third form. After their parents were killed along with all the other shifters in their village, the two siblings survived on their own in the magical forest, before finally finding refuge in Teylan. Now, Rora works for the king, but she and her brother have never really been accepted by the humans that surround them. When a magical plague that is killing humans gets worse and Rora’s best friend Prince Findley falls ill, Rora, her brother and the elder Prince Weslyn journey into the magical forest to find stardust in the hope it will cure the disease.
What begins as a simple but dangerous quest morphs into a much bigger plot, with a nice twist. War looms and there are biggest politics and more at stake than we readers and the characters realise at the start of the book.
Like Other Girls – Britta Lundin – Disney-Hyperion – Published 3 August 2021
After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.
Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.
What does it mean to be a girl? For Mara, growing up in a small, traditional town, being a girl means she has strict guidelines for how a girl looks and behaves and it’s everything Mara is not and hates. Like Other Girls is a novel about accepting yourself, accepting others and learning that there is no one right way to be a girl or to stand up for that right to be a girl in your own way.
This is not a book where the girl joins the football team and is accepted by the team. Just the opposite happens in Like Other Girls. When Mara joins the football team her relationship with her brother (the team captain) which was already unsteady, deteriorates even more. She has a massive fight with her best friend Quinn who initially encouraged her to join the team but who is now one of her greatest opponents. And her mother is no longer speaking to her or attending football games. That’s not to mention all the other responses from the other guys on the team, the coach or the other teams. When four other girls join the football team, Mara is determined that she won’t be cast as similar to them. She deserves to be there while they do not. But the reaction from the team and the sheer determination from the girls starts to prove to Mara that being a girl doesn’t have just one definition.
Alongside the story of rights, sexual harassment and equality, this is also a sexual orientation discovery story. Mara knows she is gay and has a plan for how she is going to come out – when she’s in college and far away from her conservative town. She could never be like Carly who is openly out and champions for LGBT+ rights. When Mara meets Jupiter and Jupiter hires her to do some work on her farm, Mara sees someone who is comfortable in their skin and clothes and who they are, someone in an LGBT+ relationship and Mara envies every bit of that comfort.
A Dragonbird In The Fern – Laura Rueckert – Flux – Published 3 August 2021
When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.
Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.
Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.
I really enjoyed this fantasy novel that features political scheming, vengeful ghosts and emphasises the importance of how we communicate. It’s a unique fantasy novel and I liked how refreshing it was. No epic fantasy battles, but plenty of tantalising romance, politics, betrayal, and a touch of magic.
Princess Jiara’s life is utterly changed when her older sister is murdered. Jiara knows they have just months to find her sister’s killer before her sister, left to wander the earth, becomes increasingly violent. In the midst of this her sister’s intended arrives. Raffar, King of Farnskag, makes a proposition – he will marry Jiara instead and seal their countries’ alliance. The Queen and Jiara agree and Jiara is thrust into a new world. She travels with Raffar to Farnskag, but she must rely on a translator as neither she nor her new husband speak the other’s language.
As Jiara travels to Farnskag we learn a little more about her, her relationship with her sister and what she had planned for her future. When her friend and one of her translators has to leave the party, we learn Jiara is a caring person. We also learn how much she struggles with reading and learning. While they never use the word, Jiara has the signs of being dyslexic. It weighs heavily on her mind, especially when she arrives in Farnskag and begins learning their language. Unable to communicate with her new husband, Jiara relies on her translator for everything.