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Archive for the tag “Yelena”

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

top ten

Hosted by the awesome folks at The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme celebrating all things book.

This week, they’re asking what ten books you recommend the most. I LOVE this question! I recommend books all the time – it’s the best part of my job. We often get customers looking for their next book, or trying to find a present for someone. I have to be able to recommend books over a range of genres, and it’s a fabulous opportunity to share books I love with others, passing on the obsession. These are my go-to recommends:


The Peculiar is my top pick for 10-15 year olds who enjoy fantasy, both boys and girls. It’s a steampunk faerie tale, and has some of the most glorious language I’ve ever seen, let alone in YA. Absolutely wonderful book.


Promise was the debut crime novel of a former Australian crime reporter, Tony Cavanaugh. Smart, creepy, exciting crime set in Queensland that was good enough to distract me from the real world all day when I couldn’t quite finish it in time before having to go back to work. (The sequel’s stellar, too!)

finalempireBrandon Sanderson is amazing. His magic system in Mistborn is probably the best, most well-established that I’ve come across. And the scope of his storylines is beyond ambitious. The trilogy is complete and infinitely satisfying – this book and this series is a sure thing.

(Actually, I’ll recommend either Mistborn or The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss interchangeably as my never-fail fantasy series. At work we’ll usually have run out of one or the other because I so regularly sell them through, so whichever’s there that day gets my plug!)

This is the old-school cover, the one I have!

I see your Caelena from Throne of Glass and raise you Yelena, from Maria V Snyder’s exceptional YA Fantasy series. She’s one of the original badass heroines, kicking butt and taking names before it was a big deal that she was a woman. This series is phenomenal for YA fantasy fans of all ages, and I keep passing the obsession on.


A new favourite, this is one I recommend to customers who like contemporary romance/chick lit but want something a little smarter and more memorable than average. The Rosie Project fits the bill and then some. There are no clichés here, and this book was such a great experience.


Do I even need to explain this one? I recommend it to teens (usually 14+, given the tragic nature of the story) and make a point of telling their parents to read it too. I’ve never come across anyone who hasn’t been deeply affected by how insightful, honest, painful and simply beautiful this one of a kind book is. John Green has delivered an absolute masterpiece with The Fault In Our Stars.


Marian Keyes is chick-lit with heart. For women (hey, not stereotyping, just basing it on who I sell this to) who want drama, heartache and for everything to be mostly okay at the end, no-one fits better than Marian. Her grasp of the complexity of human emotions make her novels stand out.


Not only do I recommend this all the time, I’ve bought about five copies for family and friends. Caitlin Moran is hilarious (think Kaz Cooke, Australians!), but also intelligently articulates truths about life as a woman that we don’t necessarily pay enough attention to. The perfect gift for your best friend, or a woman you don’t know all that well but need to find something for. Clever, sarcastic, sassy, and insightful.


A memoir I recommend to customers looking for something a little different. Scott Johnson‘s dad was a spy, working for the CIA through the Cold War. How this affected Scott, and his relationship with his Dad makes for compelling reading. Added to this, Johnson’s journalistic background is evident – his writing is evocative and often unexpectedly gorgeous.


I have to have Garth Nix in here! Whenever possible, I’ll introduce someone to my favourite author. Nix’s work is just as good for teens as adults, and I’ve read the Old Kingdom trilogy, starting with Sabriel, more than a few times. Nix’s world-building, characters and inventive magic systems make this a Fantasy/YA Fantasy crossover series that stands the test of time. Unmissable. (Also, I couldn’t be more excited about the forthcoming – 2014 – release of Clariel, the fourth book set in this universe!)

Who are your go-to authors to recommend? I’d love to know what you think of my old reliables!

Poison Study – by Maria V Snyder

This is the old-school cover, the one I have!

I know, more Maria V Snyder already! After reading Touch of Power a couple of weeks ago I was emphatically reminded of how much I love Snyder’s writing. I couldn’t help re-reading Poison Study, to hang out with Yelena, Valek and the wonder twins again. Here’s how I enjoyed revisiting my old friends:

Yelena is about to be executed. But on the morning of her execution she is offered an extraordinary alternative. She can become the Commander’s new food taster, under the tutelage of his right hand man, the most notorious assassin in the land: Valek. The job no doubt means that Yelena will succumb to poison sooner or later – but she won’t die today.

Soon enough, Yelena is embroiled in the heart of life in the Commander’s castle; spies, assassination attempts, learning to fight, making friends and evading her enemies. All Yelena wants is a chance to run away to Sitia, where she’ll have the chance to be free, and where she will need to learn to control her recently discovered magical abilities before the power flames out and kills her. But fate – and Valek – are unwilling to let her escape so easily.

This story is wonderful, with many concurrent plot lines and competing agendas. The world is layered and authentic. And the characters are absolutely marvellous.

Yelena is hugely resilient. She was educated and cared for in her childhood before being subjected to years of torture, both physical and mental, once she reached the age of 16. When we meet her, she’s at her lowest, barely a shell of her former self. Watching her build herself up into a person again is painful and incredibly rewarding.Valek’s raison d’être is his unflinching loyalty to the Commander, and everything else he is is secondary to his concern for the Commander’s wellbeing – a fact that very gradually starts to change once Yelena enters his life.

Janco and Ari, the ‘wonder twins’, are soldiers who take Yelena under their collective wings, and their mentoring and friendship is one of the main reasons Yelena is able to draw herself up again. Every single character in Snyder’s world is three-dimensional, complicated and a healthy mix of sympathetic and unlikeable. And for me, at least, if the characters are great I’ll follow them almost anywhere.

The love story simmers ever so gently beneath the narrative, and is one of the sweetest I’ve read in years of YA, or in general fiction, for that matter. This is not your clichéd hatred-turning-out-to-be-repressed-attraction, nor is it a sudden-change-in-how-he-sees-her. It’s a love born from a place of mutual distrust that gives way as they get to know each other to respect, admiration and understanding. And it’s the kind of thing you have to read to really appreciate.

My experience in past years with Poison Study is a key reason I didn’t enjoy Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass all that much. Yelena is Celaena Sardothien’s predecessor, and outshines Celaena in every way.

If you haven’t read Poison Study, and especially if you haven’t read any Maria V Snyder at all, please read this book and its sequels (it’s the first in a trilogy).

five fox

It retains its place as one of the best young adult fantasy series I’ve ever read.
And if you have readi it, do you think the reviewer doth praise too much? Or do you share my love for Snyder’s amazing trilogy?

Have you read Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass as well? How do you think the two match up?

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