Recent Reads - May

May 19, 2019


Once upon a time, these Recent Reads posts happened every couple of months! These days, I’m lucky if they’re bi-yearly, but I still love sharing the things I’ve been reading. Hopefully there will be something here that takes your fancy! (There’s a lot to choose from...)


Body of Work | David Hallberg



I don’t read a lot of biographies (read: I don’t read any at all) but I loved this one. It was gifted to me by the principal of a dance school I taught at a couple of years ago, and I’m so glad I read it. Anyone who has ever done a ballet class will love reading about the highs and (extreme) lows Hallberg’s career as a professional ballet dancer. I will say, I would have loved a little more of his personal story to be included in the biography (who doesn’t love a bit of romance etc.) but I thoroughly enjoyed it.




Strange the Dreamer | Laini Taylor



After loving Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was very excited to read this. Taylor has a very special way with words, and reading her books feels good. It’s like running a silk ribbon through your brain. Gorgeous descriptions, wonderful characters, great plot. Oddly though, I can’t see myself running out to buy the sequel, Muse of Nightmares. It’s not that I didn’t love the Strange the Dreamer, it’s just one of those situations where the other books on my ever-increasing TBR list are likely to supersede the sequel. Still, a great read for any fantasy lover (especially those who like a bit of purple prose).




Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories | Edited by Tobias Madden (ME!)



Oh, well look what it is! There’s little I can say about Underdog that I haven’t already said. If you like Aussie young adult fiction, I am certain you’ll love this collection of short stories, edited and published by ME. The response has been overwhelmingly positive so far (since our release on the 5th of March) and it has been absolutely thrilling to see Underdog in stores, libraries and—even better—school libraries, all over the country. I’m just so proud of what we created. If you’d like to hear me ramble about Underdog, feel free to check out this awesome PODCAST from Better Words, or this INTERVIEW I did with a wonderful teen reviewer from InsideADog.




What’s If It’s Us | Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera



I love these two authors! Albertalli has to be my fave at the moment, and this collaboration does not disappoint. This book is a delightfully awkward gay rom-com, and if you enjoyed Love, Simon, you will most certainly love this too!




The Rift | Rachael Craw



Sci-fi, environmental drama, teen romance, mystery, thriller... If you like any of the above, chances are you’ll enjoy The Rift. The reader is plunged into the world with very little explanation, which gives the storytelling a sense of immediacy and intensity, right from the start. This is a really interesting and pacey novel by our dear friend from New Zealand (where they have great politicians and real leaders, unlike the incompetent fools we’re stuck with over here in Aus) Rachael Craw. It’s an eerie, unique tale, and definitely one to look out for.





The Upside of Unrequited | Becky Albertalli



After Simon, Leah, and What If It’s Us, I was keen to read Albertalli’s second (and sometimes overlooked) novel. It wasn’t quite as well received as Simon or Leah, but I, for one, loved it. It was adorable and sweet and awkward—all of the things Albertalli does best. And the protagonist’s relationship with her sister was painfully and beautifully realistic. Also great to note that Albertalli does a wonderful job of weaving diverse characters into her books without making it feel like a checklist, which is important for teen and adult readers alike.





The Path of the Lost | Beau Kondos



This brings us to January 2019 (yes, that’s how far behind I am with these posts). It also shows just how little time I’ve had to read this year, racking up only 11 books so far. The Path of the Lost is Kondos’s debut novel, and it’s an intriguing YA fantasy that delves (no pun intended, for those who’ve read it) into the power of creative expression and storytelling. I loved how vivid and unexpected the world was, though at times I longed for a little more plot to support all the world building. But it’s full of surprises, and certainly worth checking out if you’re a fantasy lover.





Meet Me At The Intersection | Edited by Ambelin Kwaymullina & Rebecca Lim



The second #LoveOzYA anthology to be released (After Begin, End, Begin and before Underdog), this collection focuses on ‘intersectionality’, being the crossover between different minority groups. The anthology includes short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTQ+, or living with a disability. They are all #ownvoices stories (written by people who have lived the experiences in the stories) which is definitely something we all need to read more of. For me, some of the stories were a little didactic and aggressive, especially for a teen anthology, but on the whole it is a wonderfully diverse read!




Making Friends With Alice Dyson | Poppy Nwosu



Another Aussie YA debut! I was lucky enough to win an annotated advance reader’s copy of this book via Poppy’s Instagram page, which was so cool! Making Friends is a super cute teen romance, and while the romantic relationship is the focus of the novel, it’s also a fascinating look at the protagonist’s friendship with her bestie as they begin to grow apart. Aside from the story itself, it was such a treat to read all of Poppy’s annotations in the book. Hearing about the inspiration for certain chapters and the changes that occurred during the writing and editing process was so interesting to a budding writer and editor like me!




Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia | Edited by Dr Anita Heiss



I’m actually half way through this at the moment, and I keep coming back to it in between other books. This is another collection of short works, all of which a non-fiction/memoir. This wonderful anthology explores the varied experiences of people—as the title suggests—who grew up Aboriginal in Australia. Within the first few stories, you can already feel the stereotypes falling down around you. This is definitely a book every Australian needs to read, rather than continuing to take on the perspectives presented about our First Nations peoples by our extraordinarily biased (and white/privileged) media. The publishers, Black Inc. Books, have similar compilations about growing up Queer, Disabled, and African in Australia. Make sure to check them out! After all, empathy breeds understanding, and understanding leads to change—something we need a good dose of right now in Australia.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzie Lee



Loved this! This is gay historical YA at its best (not that it’s an enormous sub-genre or anything, but still). Gentleman’s Guide is like a trip through Europe with your besties, getting up to mischief at every turn. Great plot, adorable multi-faceted characters, gorgeous settings—there’s a lot to love about this one. I’m also super keen to read the sequel, The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. If you’re into LGBTQ+ YA fiction (and why the hell wouldn’t you be?) you’ll adore this light-hearted but poignant novel.





Less | Sean Greer




As we all know, I don’t read a huge amount of adult/literary fiction, but when an LGBTQ+ novel like wins the Pulitzer Prize, I’m obviously going to check it out. At first, it took me a little while to adjust to Greer’s tone and language, but I soon realised why there was so much hype surrounding this book. It is a heartfelt and heartbreakingly honest examination of a gay novelist’s mid-life crisis as he approaches 50. I loved every page. I laughed. I cried. I really felt this one.






Children of Blood and Bone | Tomi Adeyemi

(Did Not Finish at 25%)



Here’s another book that was surrounded by ALL the hype. And, unfortunately, I could not get into it. I have heard nothing but good things about CoBaB, but there was nothing I could find in the pages to keep me reading beyond the first quarter of the book. I found the writing extremely clunky, the world building questionable, and the characters one-dimensional and clichéd. After asking the Bookstagram community if I should persevere with the book, I found I wasn’t the only one of this opinion. I was so looking forward to this book and I really, really wanted to love it. But alas, that was not the case.




Risk | Fleur Ferris



Ferris is deservedly recognised as one of Australia’s best YA thriller writers. This novel hits all the right notes, in a chilling account of teenage disappearance. I don’t want to say too much, but it is topical, intriguing, superbly crafted and (of course) thrilling. Not only is it a great read, but it holds a great message for teens. And the best thing is, it doesn’t feel like a lesson. It doesn’t descend into didacticism, relying instead on a pacey plot to keep the reader engaged at all times. It is, however, an emotional gut punch, so be prepared to have a good cry.





Four Dead Queens | Astrid Scholte



A great fantasy debut from Scholte. People who loved Divergent will definitely love the divided-society world building of this murder mystery. There’s always something so exciting about hypothesising about which part of a new world you would belong to, just as we saw with the Hogwarts houses and the Factions in Divergent. The different ‘Quadrants’ in Four Dead Queens present the same appeal. There were definitely a few questions I had about the world itself, and a few little plot holes here and there, but the story was interesting enough to keep me reading. I can’t wait to see what Scholte writes next; I think she’s going to be one to watch!




The Hole Idea | Beth and Paul MacDonald, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom



What’s this? A picture book?! That’s right, this is the debut picture book from Beth and Paul MacDonald (the owners of the beloved Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft) and their brand new publishing company, Book Trail Press. It’s about a young boy who goes ’digging’ for an idea, and it is so beautiful. Eckstrom’s illustrations are gorgeous, and the story jumps right off the page. Beth and Paul are huge supporters of Australian children’s books and authors, and their new endeavour as writers and publishers is just SO exciting!


Amelia Westlake | Erin Gough



The winner of the recent NSW Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction, this book is so good. It examines high school politics and what it would take for students to expose the injustices of their school from within, along with the consequences of taking such action. It is intelligent YA at its best. Never preachy, always thought-provoking. A perfectly-paced contemporary featuring diverse characters and a gripping plot. There’s no wonder this was nominated for every Australian publishing award under the sun. Amelia Westlake truly sets the bar for #LoveOzYA as we head into the 2020s. Our teens are smart, self-aware and desperate for change. This book makes it crystal clear why we should listen to them.




So there we have it! Let me know if you read any of these gems! Happy reading x


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© 2016 by Tobias Madden. Headshots by Maryna Rothe, 2015.