Category Archives: Young Adult

Review: Refuge

Refuge
Refuge by A.V. Mather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening a normal-looking door into a whole new world is one of my favourite trope because there are just so many possibilities. In this novel, Refuge, our heroine, Nell McLennan, wanted to run away from her problems, her life. I bet each one of us has felt like that at one time or another… escape the daily drudge or any relationship difficulties and see how they cope when we’re not around or will they miss us at all?

Nell did not have a particularly close relationship with her parents. In fact, they were too busy with work to bother too much with her. And then, just before Christmas holidays, she managed to botch things with her best friend who won’t ever speak to her again. The final kick came when her parents decided to go on a holiday without her. She is being sent to a grandfather she’s never met who lives in woop woop. When the chance of escape was presented, Nell jumped for it.

It was a bit of a slow start or maybe I was just too impatient to get to the other world behind the door. It felt like there were too much setting up in the beginning; a steamrolling of events to drive Nell to truly want/need a ‘refuge’ from ever having to face up to her troubles. However, ‘Refuge’ really isn’t a haven where you do not have problems instead Nell came across a set of different yet the same sort of issues. Refuge is a dark world filled with madness and supernatural talents. Everyone came to Refuge for the same reason and all have their own sets of secrets, enemies, and allies. Who can Nell trust? Will she stay or will she return home?

I didn’t expect Refuge to be such a dark world but I do love the variety & dynamics of characters in this world. Nell was a little frustrating but it’s one of those passenger-driver issue, if you get what I mean. I am fascinated by the mad scientist and ever curious on the backgrounds of the other Refuge-ans (we don’t get to hear very much about them). The ending also makes me think that this is really only the first in a series; am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more Refuge tales.

My sincere thanks to the author for providing e-copy of this book in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeksFreeks by Amanda Hocking

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.

My Blurb

I’ve probably said it enough times that thanks for Enid Blyton’s Mr. Galliano’s Circus series, I have this deep abiding love for circus in fiction. Needless to say, I was drawn to this novel by the fact that this is set within a circus sort of scene. The difference is that this is actually a travelling sideshow so you know… lots of those strange and wonderful and not-so-wonderful things! You go there to be entertained, to be horrified, and to have lots of stupid fun.

I didn’t realise that this book is a spin-off of some sort of the Trylle Trilogy and I’ve not actually read them yet so I can’t tell you (if you’re a fan) if this compares well to the original trilogy or if any of previous characters is in this book though from what I can see on Goodreads, they seem to have different sets of characters. After reading this book though, I am rather curious of this world as it’s paranormal with a gothic vibe (especially with all the ‘freeks’ or to be PC, specially talented people).

For some reason, it rather shocked me that the whole book is set in late ’80s. I mean why would you set a book in the ’80s? Especially a YA? However, there are a lot of historical/paranormal YA books set in 19th century & other periods so why not the ’80s?! It really is an historical period despite the fact that I was already alive then :p Of course, quite a few things resonate with me (ie. cassettes, music, etc) and that brings back other memories.

Freeks is a very easy read though rather long. The main characters were easily likeable. The mystery was acceptable. The ending was rather abrupt but totally as I expected. Overall, it was a rather average read; entertaining enough but missing that particular sparkle. I think there was too much in the middle and the build-up for the final confrontation didn’t quite deliver. It’s a cute read for the romance and of course, the ‘circus’ feel.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom – all three books in her bestselling trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her latest book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a travelling sideshow, and it is a available now. Her next books will be a duology about Valkyries – due out in 2018.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | pinterest  |  tumblr  | facebook  | youtube  | instagram

Blog Tour: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

About the book

a-quiet-kind-of-thunder

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

My Blurb

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a beautiful read. Mind you, there were stacks of romance in here though I think you can kind of tell by the number of hearts on the cover 😉 There were times that I found the romance crossed the corny cheesy line but I made the allowance for “First Love”. They really weren’t that bad; just a teeny weeny bit more than I liked so you may love it.

At the beginning, however, Steffi was facing first day back at school without her best friend. She’s 16 so she’s in sixth form; which term I actually had to look up as I’m not familiar with the British education system (thanks, Google!) and it’s like years 12 & 13. She may know all the students there but it’s a big day for her. She is determined that she will speak this year. She needs to prove to herself and her parents that she’s capable of ‘normality’ so they will let her go to university. Minutes later, she met a boy who cannot hear, Rhys, and he’s rather cute…

There is only one perspective, Steffi’s, and we get to hear everything she’s saying in her head. She’s getting help and she’s working very hard to overcome that which limit her. I love that we get to hear these things; she may not be able to speak but it doesn’t mean that her head is empty! I can’t tell how accurate the things she’s thought of in relation to other people who are in the same boat as Steffi but it felt just as how they could’ve thought (feel free to correct me) and in some ways were really enlightening. Meeting Rhys with a different type of limitation helps her in a way as they found support in each other; tackling the world which place those limitations on them and along the way, found her confidence and identity.

I have truly enjoyed this book. It was a fun, educational, heart-warming, and totally encouraging book to read. It really inspires you to reach for your dreams despite what the world tells you; only you can decide your limits.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Quick Q&A

  1. What kind of research was involved in writing A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

A lot! I learned some (very basic) sign language and read as much as I could on deaf culture and community. I also watched videos on YouTube, including those from/about people in deaf/hearing relationships. For selective mutism, I did a lot of general research into things like diagnosis and treatment, and read the materials that were aimed at teachers and parents to get an idea of how they would deal with a child in that situation.

  1. Is there an interesting story/incident that you came across during your research that you could share with us?

Everything I learned about deaf culture and BSL was fascinating, and I really loved watching BSL music videos online – they absolutely blew my mind.

  1. What is it that drives you to write contemporary YA and of such confronting truths?

For me, those are the kinds of books I most love and that I take the most from. I love books that are honest about people, relationships and the world, and so I suppose it makes sense that I would also try to do this in my own writing. Writing is also a great cathartic way to explore issues and problems that goes beyond just talking or thinking about them, so there’s probably an element of that, too.

About the author

sara-barnardSara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Sara is inspired by what-ifs and people. She thinks sad books are good for the soul and happy books lift the heart. She hopes to write lots of books that do both. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS is her first book and a dream come true.

Find Sara on: goodreads  |  tumblr  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Blog Tour: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartlessHeartless

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine has a talent for cooking magical confections that can alter a person’s emotions. All she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. As a favourite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts – such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

She will do anything to avoid this fate, particularly as she finds herself falling in love with Jest, the mysterious new court jester. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

My Blurb

It’s not a secret, everyone knows The Queen of Hearts (and if you don’t, where have you been!?). What we don’t know is where she came from and how she became who she is. And this is Marissa Meyer’s gift to us in Heartless. Since we know what The Queen of Hearts is like… we know this is NOT going to be a pretty tale.  But it’s oh so scrumptious! And it began with

“three luscious lemon tarts…”

I think I have to warn you that you’re going to need some delish sweets to help you through this book because all the description of Cath’s marvellous baking made me run to the first cake shop I can find. Cath is not a thin baker. She loves tasting the goods just as much as she loves to make them. As impossible as it seems, she will not give up on her dreams of opening a bakery with her best friend. As much as I love this trait of hers, I was also a little frustrated because it feels that she wasn’t being realistic. It also became even more impossible when the King shows his preference for her. And to make things even more interesting, she was being pulled towards the new handsome and mysterious court jester. Who is he, where did he come from, why is he here?

Heartless was an easy world to lose myself in. From the very first few letters (see above), I was already drowning in the sweetness of this fantasy kingdom where everything must be pleasant. It is a beautiful world but with enough quirkiness to reflect that of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with a love story to touch the heart and some spins & twists to delight the readers.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Marissa Meyer in the New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and three demanding cats. She’s a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, any occasion that requires a costume), and has been in love with fairy tales since she was a child.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | pinterest  |  twitter  | facebook  | youtube

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Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway): Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

About the book

Words in Deep Blue

Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries

This is a love story.

It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.

It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. 

Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

Sometimes you need the poets

My Blurb

Life is the big scheme; death is the little one at the end

I loved visiting second-hand bookshops though these days I don’t actually know whether there is one in my neighbourhood. Nowadays, I buy second-hand books from Vinnies so they don’t usually have that “old” feels to them. And to be honest, I hate seeing things underlined or highlighted in books though I do like the little penciled (not penned) notes. I haven’t, however, found anything that meaningful in my books or maybe I just haven’t the imagination to find meaning in old bus/train tickets. The idea, however, is utterly charming.

The thing about the Letter Library at Howling Books is that you leave actual letters / notes to people who mean something to you. Rachel Sweetie has never been able to grasp the point of this exercise for what use is words? They’re just words. They’re there but they don’t DO anything in the scheme of life. She’s a scientist and she believes in the moon and the tides. Henry Jones, on the other hand, is a poet. He loves words. He believes in the power of words. And yet, they are the best of friends until… they weren’t. Years later, Rachel returned; stricken by grief, angry, and numb. 10 years of friendship, however, cannot be ignored.

I loved Rachel. Her strength impressed me from the very beginning; she’s been struck down by a grief so profound and yet, life still flickered inside of her. It was amazing to see that fire being stoke back to life and seeing her grasp life once again. Henry, on the other hand, didn’t quite impress me. I am fascinated by his family and, most especially, his family home! I wasn’t sure though I could like a real life Henry. His one redeeming fact is that he’s a reader and that he’s really a terrific friend. All the secondary characters though were brilliantly alive. I love the diverse cast of characters: Lola & Hiroko with their music, George (Henry’s sister) & Martin and his mums, etc.

Words in Deep Blue is a book about books (& words), of love and grief, of friendship and finding one’s feet. It is poignant and funny at the same time. It is wonderful collection of words strung into a beautiful story; one I’d highly recommend as it will delight many hearts.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People’s Literature, and was named an honour book in the Children’s Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath writes and teaches in Melbourne.

Find Cath on: goodreads  |  website  |  tumblr  |  twitter

Giveaway (AU only)

I have 1 brand new copy of this book to giveaway but Australian address only (sorry, peeps, can’t afford overseas shipping :/). To enter, simply leave me a comment on what book would you leave your letter in and why OR who would you leave a letter to at the Letter Library.

I will contact the winner on Saturday, 1 October for his/her postal details.

Blog Tour: When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

WMMM_616x150pxbannerranda abdel-fattah

Randa Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney in 1979. She is a Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage. She grew up in Melbourne and attended a Catholic primary school and Islamic secondary college. Randa has worked as a lawyer, human rights advocate and community volunteer with different human rights and migrant and refugee resource organisations. Randa has used her opinion editorials in newspapers and TV and radio media appearances as a medium for expressing her views about racism, multiculturalism, human rights, the occupation of Palestine and asylum seekers. She is a regular guest at schools around Australia addressing students about her books and the social justice issues they raise. Randa has also been a guest at international writer’s festivals. She recently completed her PhD in the Department of Sociology at Macquarie University, researching Islamophobia, racism and everyday multiculturalism in Australia. Randa lives in Sydney with her husband and three children. She has just released her latest novel, When Michael Met Mina, which was inspired by her PhD fieldwork examining issues of race in Australia.

Find Randa on: goodreads  |  website  |  facebook  |  twitter

Q&A with Randa

Boat Refugees!  What a contentious issue! What kind of research was involved in writing When Michael Met Mina?

I based my book on my own fieldwork (I wrote it while researching Islamophobia, racism and everyday multiculturalism in Australia as part of a PhD in Sociology) my own work with refugees, stories from friends, and information from refugee advocates.

If you conduct any interviews of boat refugees, could you please share one particular story that touched you?

I spoke to a refugee advocate who told me about a young man who turned 18 while he was still studying (he was in community detention). The Department of Immigration told him he had to leave school. They also moved him from youth accommodation to a boarding house where the other residents were older men with alcohol and drug-related problems. The school principal encouraged the boy to remain in school even though Immigration was no longer funding his education. The principal did not realise how short of money he was and that he was not paying his train fares to come to school (in community detention people get a very small allowance). He was caught on the train without a ticket and sent back to Villawood.

Then there was this story: a Palestinian – Iraqi family who came by boat. The advocate helped prevent the Immigration Department from forcing the oldest daughter to leave school (policy once they turn 18 regardless of where they are in their studies).

What particular policies (proposed or otherwise) in Australian politics which are of ‘Aussie Values’ that you think are misconceptions?  What are these misconceptions and what are the facts?

There are misconceptions and there is the racism that structures and inspires a certain way of thinking and emotional posture in relation to multiculturalism, refugees and non-Anglo Australia. First and foremost, the idea of policing ‘our borders’ and deciding who we will allow to come in etc is based on a fundamental erasure of indigenous sovereignty. It is denied. It is taken for granted that all of us–the White dominant majority and ‘everybody  else’– have the right to police Australia’s borders because of a racist presumption of White sovereignty over indigenous sovereignty. Everything else stems from that. As for misconceptions, I don’t even know if that is the right word. There are straightforward facts available to anybody willing to do a Google search regarding all the economic claims around refugees (i.e. they take our jobs/they get more welfare etc). So I’d call it wilful ignorance. Then there are the claims that there is a global ‘queue’, that people get on boats and risk their lives to take advantage of ‘our way of life’, that refugees have values that ‘threaten our values’, that they would set themselves on fire in order to emotionally blackmail us and so on. I don’t see these as misconceptions. There is something nasty and racist and dark at work here which has taken shape over years of strong political and media work to demonise refugees.

Could you provide some practical advices to a teen / young adult on how to influence above change in policies?

Oh yes definitely! Politicians aren’t stupid. If our border policies were unpopular and didn’t win votes, they’d be the first in line to shut down detention centres.  So politicians need to know that their policies are not supported. That means lobbying your local MP, being part of campaigns that counter the dangerous narratives that get widely disseminated. Use as many platforms as possible: social media, vlogs, the arts, op eds, music, story-telling.

Randa’s latest book

when michael met mina

When Michael Met Mina

Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.

When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees – standing on opposite sides.

Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.

Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.

They want to stop the boats. 
Mina wants to stop the hate.

When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s private school, their lives crash together blindingly.

A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.

My Blurb

Do you ever stop being a refugee? Even if at some point in your life the place of refuge becomes home?

Wow! was my first thought when I saw the description for this book. Refugees, especially boat refugees, caused such furore in Australian politics and everybody has an opinion. It’s good that everyone has thoughts about this but sometimes, they need to look a little bit harder, deeper, and further! I’m actually looking at this book with a little trepidation because being a stereotypical Asian, I don’t like confrontation (avoid it like that plague!) even when it’s in books.

Presenting views from different people (pros and cons and everything in between), When Michael Met Mina demands the readers to think also for themselves. What is the right thing to do? And one thing that struck me from Q&A above is Randa’s comment on wilful ignorance ; this phrase has been stuck in my head for a month now because I thought it’s something that’s wrong but is remedial if only you’d take the steps and of course, also because I’m guilty (in some aspects).  Do not live with your head in the sand and parrot others (even those you look up to), do your own research and speak your own unique thoughts.

I find myself infuriated on one page, teary on another, and smiling on the next one. Written in the perspectives of teenagers from both ‘sides of the fence’, When Michael Met Mina seeks to inform and to encourage the young to form their own views based on genuine hard facts. An absolute gem of a read with real life issues & implications, this book speaks not only to your heart but also to your mind.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Sea Hearts

sea heartsSea Hearts by Margo Lanagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy won from a giveaway

Tender Morsel absolutely crushed me! It was such a huge life lesson and it hurt… really bad! I approached Sea Hearts with extreme caution because I’m still feel the crushing pain from Tender Morsel. Thankfully, or is it rather, unfortunately, Sea Hearts was not as sharp as Tender Morsel… at least, not to me personally.

Whilst I knew this novel was an expanded work of the short story, Sea-Hearts (with the dash), I never actually read that story so this was all new to me. The story revolves around Rollrock Island and the selkies but really, whilst the selkies may be the main interest for most fantasy loves in reading this, they’re really not the main story. It is a tool employed ingeniously by the witch, and the author, in teaching Rollrock residents, and the reader, an important lesson: Don’t Mess with the Witch!! respect for all despite how different they are.

It wasn’t preachy in any way especially since there were multiple of perspectives from different times and sides. The main lesson was easily learnt but there were multiple layers of dimensions to it. I am torn between admirations for the witch’s resourcefulness and nauseated by her vengefulness. In any case, she’s taken it up on herself to teach the community a lesson which will be remembered for a long long time. This was a dark tale but well worth the read.

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