The Secret Life of Stars Blog Tour

We all know the Sun, the powerhouse of our solar system, but what about Luyten’s Flare, the Rosino-Zwicky Object or Chanal’s variable star? For those whose curiosity takes them far beyond Earth’s atmosphere, The Secret Life of Stars offers a personal and readily understood introduction to some of the Galaxy’s most remarkable stars.

Each chapter connects us to the various different and unusual stars and their amazing characteristics and attributes, from pulsars, blue stragglers and white dwarfs to cannibal stars and explosive supernovae. With chapter illustrations by Eirian Chapman, this book brings to life the remarkable personalities of these stars, reminding readers what a diverse and unpredictable universe we live in and how fortunate we are to live around a stable star, our Sun.

Having always found astronomy fascinating, I thoroughly enjoyed this book where I was able to immerse myself into a non-fiction text that triggered my imagination and showed me just how much more there are to the twinkles we see in the night sky. Entertaining, simultaneously educational, this book is suitable for readers young and older. I could feel the passion the author has with astrophysics when reading this book and believe there should be more resources like this in libraries and schools. It’s a fun and easily accessible way to learn about the universe around us and honestly I probably would have paid more attention in science class if there were more books like this to read in school. Highly recommended. With special thanks to Thames & Hudson Australia and Aus. YA Bloggers for having me on board the blog tour and for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.

For more info…

Thames & Hudson Australia – https://thamesandhudson.com.au/product/the-secret-life-of-stars-astrophysics-for-everyone/Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54981178-the-secret-life-of-starsAustralian Bloggers – https://ausyabloggers.blogspot.com/2020/10/the-secret-life-of-stars-astrophysics.htmlThe Australian Bloggers post will be live closer to the tour commencement.


About The Author: Lisa Harvey-Smith is an award-winning astronomer and Professor at the University of New South Wales. In 2018 she was appointed as the Australian Government’s Ambassador for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She is the author of When Galaxies Collide and best-selling children’s book Under the Stars, both published by Melbourne University Press. Lisa is also a regular on national tv/radio/media, and has appeared in several TV series and documentaries as a guest scientist and is a presenter alongside Prof. Brian Cox on ABC TV’s Stargazing Live.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix with Mini Q&A

A great book!

A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix.

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story that took us back to an alternate London in 1983 with a mystery of what happened to Susan‘s Dad? So very well written with steady pacing and great alternate world building that enriched my mind with great characters and the collision of old world and new worlds that are managed by left handed and right handed (and even handed) booksellers. The parallels between real world and ‘monsters’ in this book gave me a Men in Black meets The Bill vibe.. I enjoyed Susan as a character and could feel how at times she felt she bit off more than she could chew. I also enjoyed Merlin and his epic ability to gender shift – the relationship between Merlin and Susan was great I enjoyed how they interacted throughout the book. Enjoyed the book, once again Garth dazzles us with great imagination. FYI: May Fair goblins freak me out……

With special thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy and for also having me on board with Galaxy Bookshop to host the digi-launch via zoom, it was an honour.

-Annie

Mini Q&A with author Garth Nix

Congratulations on the launch of ‘The Left-Handed Booksellers of London’ a great book, just like the others you have written. How did writing this book compare to your previous work? Was it a lot more fun to write? More challenging? Anything different this time around with the process?

All my books have challenging parts and parts that are easier to write, sadly no one book has ever been completely easy. Or difficult, I suppose. There wasn’t anything different about my writing process for THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON. 

Susan and Merlin are interesting characters, how did you construct/create these characters for the book and was there a character you enjoyed writing more?

I don’t know much about my characters when I start a book, I learn about them as I go on. I like writing all my characters!

1983 – we don’t see a lot of books these days set in the 80’s particularly with urban fantasy, why did you choose the 80’s as the year/setting for ‘The Left-Handed Booksellers of London?’

To a large degree this was instinct, and I find it difficult to explain. I think it owes a lot to the fact that I first went to London in 1983, and I spent six months there, off and on, so I have a deeper personal experience of the city in that year than at any other time, even though I’ve visited often since then

Do you have a favourite place to write?

Not really. I’ve worked in many different places over the years. I do like it to be quiet.

Over the years you would have met a lot of fans with the great books you have published, what was the most creative or interesting gift you ever received from a fan?

Readers have given me wonderful presents over the years. I particularly like it when they give me copies of their own artwork or creations inspired by the books.

With your many years of expertise, what is the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Be wary of writing advice! Try different things, see what works for you. There is no one true way to write a novel, no silver bullet.

Thank you!

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

Dear Uncle Herbert,

You’ve never met me, but I’m your niece Kate, and since it is my birthday tomorrow and you are super-rich could you please send me a present?

Kate and her younger brother Tom lead dull, uninteresting lives. And if their dull, uninteresting parents are anything to go by, they don’t have much to look forward to. Why can’t Kate have thrilling adventures and save the world the way people do in books? Even her 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane — that is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert, whom she’s never even met before, surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating, inappropriate birthday present of all time: a colossal steam locomotive called the Silver Arrow.

Kate and Tom’s parents want to send it right back where it came from. But Kate and Tom have other ideas — and so does the Silver Arrow — and soon they’re off to distant lands along magical rail lines in the company of an assortment of exotic animals who, it turns out, can talk. With only curiosity, excitement, their own resourcefulness and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime…and who knows? They just might end up saving the world after all.

This thrilling fantasy adventure will not only entertain young readers but inspire them to see the beautiful, exciting, and precious world around them with new eyes.

I absolutely loved this middle grade adventure story! It was charming, it was fun, it was a wild ride full of non stop adventure! I enjoyed how this book had non human characters interacting with our main human character. I also appreciated our main character’s feelings about certain matters she was dealing with at the time – in some cases characters come off as whiny but in this case, she vented and learnt the lesson. I was impressed in how she developed throughout the story and how she worked with her brother to operate “the silver arrow”. Uncle Herbert was an interesting character too I wish I had an uncle Herbert myself.

An exciting adventure that was entertaining from beginning to end with special underlying messages to teach the reader important life lessons and friendship. Recommended to readers aged 7 and up.

With special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

-Annie

Indigo Owl by Charlie Archbold – BLOG TOUR

After Earth was destroyed by climate change and overpopulation, private corporations colonised new planets. On one such planet, Galbraith,the fertility of its citizens is tightly controlled. But at what cost?

When Scarlet Bergen leaves her childhood home to be trained at the Arcadia Institute, harnessing her psychic Solitaire talents, it feels like the beginning of her future. But on the Institute steps, her father whispers a life-changing secret about the past. Her mother, a geneticist who disappeared when Scarlet was ten, had enemies …

Scarlet vows to discover the truth about her mother – and is joined in her mission by fellow cadets with their own family secrets and special talents: tech-savvy Rumi, a tenacious truth-hunter, and Dylan, the aloof classmate who can literally read her mind.

Together, they’ll uncover a planet-wide conspiracy … and discover that there’s little the Galbraith Executives won’t do to get what they want.

What a very unique and thought provoking book this was! Despite current world events, I have always had a soft spot for dystopian books so to have read one that was inspired by climate change was a cool experience. The plot was not far off in drawing a parallel between fantasy and reality as this book’s premise was Earth being destroyed by climate change resulting in survivors having to move to the icy planet: Galbraith – a planet run by a dictatorship and everything as far as the eye can see from their way of life, even fertility, is controlled by the powers that be. It also felt there was an underlying message – if we don’t take care of the planet as we know it, then disaster will strike and those left to survive it will endure a more controlled state to make up for the past mistake that destroyed our planet, is this what you really want for your future generations?

The story was told in a fast pace which is what I enjoy in books. Fast world building followed by page turning action or drama, which is why I managed to read this book so quickly. So for those who enjoy an intricate world building book, this may be too fast paced for your liking. I also found the characters interesting and I enjoyed the multi-perspective views of Scarlet (our main character) and her friends. Scarlet’s family mystery is also something I was intrigued by.

In addition to the dystopian vibes that kept me on the edge of my seat, this book contained mystery that held my attention to the end which wrapped up nicely despite leaving some areas with questions. It works as a stand-alone but I’d be excited to see a sequel. If you are a fan of dystopia combined with Sci-Fi, I recommend this book to you.

With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + Wakefield Press for sending me a copy of this book and for having me on board their blog tour.
-Annie

Make sure you take a moment to visit these amazing blogs that were also part of the tour…

 

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

“Shoes made of glass are an accident waiting to happen…”

It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.

Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball . are forfeit.

But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was very fast paced, easy to follow and a story where you grow to care for what becomes of the characters. The story cleverly used a fairytale we all know and love as the foundation and was woven into an original story. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author through Insta Live and got to know her inspiration for the story and what she is hoping readers will take away from this. The one thing I took away from it was to not be afraid to challenge the status quo. However you identify, don’t always just accept your fate.

“People who don’t fit nicely into the boxes the kings of Mersailles have defined are simply erased as if our lives don’t matter…”

The book was pitched as the Cinderella tale has been turned on its head with queer, black girls overthrowing the patriarchy which is exactly what it is and I feel the author executed this brilliantly. The kingdom is run by a dictatorship however the story of Cinderella is what governs the society. When girls hit a certain age, they are required to go to the ball to meet their match – failing to do so or failing to find their match results in girls becoming forfeit.

Sophia is a queer black girl who wants to find her own destiny…

“Maybe Liv wants to be taken away, I can’t blame her but that’s not for me… I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armour. I’d like to be the one in the armour and I’d like to be the one doing the saving…”

As time goes on, Sophia finds that there is no escape from what society expects from her and the only option is fight back. This is a story that questions everything, a story that teaches you what may be the norm does not always mean it’s right. In addition to the entertainment value, the author explores some important themes such as prejudice, sexism and sexual preference however in exploring these themes, it must be noted that some of the content does become intense and explores abuse (trigger warning).

This was a highly anticipated read for 2020 and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. I really enjoyed this book and I was so thrilled to have met the author (full interview on the Read3r’z Re-Vu Instagram account – IGTV) With special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book and for assisting in coordinating the live interview.
-Annie

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“As they say, war is misery, but its not without its charms…”

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

As a fan of the Hunger Games series, I was really keen to read this prequel, to explore the land of Pandem before the Panem as we know it. I was also keen to know who Snow really was, what his life was like before he became the dictator that ruled Panem with an iron fist. Throughout the book, I felt the author captured him very well. From Snow’s emotions, his thinking, his inner struggles, his motivations – all explored very well. Lucy Gray was a character I loved and adored very much and her interaction with Snow (Coriolanus) was very clever. Her love for poetry added a nice touch to an overall very depressing story. The prequel demonstrated just how far the Hunger Games had come from its first inception. Whilst the concept is so barbaric even in modern day Panem, I was mortified to see how tributes were treated int his prequel, it was illustrated so well that I had an emotional reaction when I read of their treatment.

The book is written very well and well thought out. Some parts of it were slow but it does build up to a plot twist that kept me intrigued to the end. I was mesmerized, simultaneously horrified, in reading Snow’s backstory and I highly recommend this book to all Hunger Games fans – just don’t read it if you’re having a bad day…
-Annie

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

“Love does not always come in convenient packages…”

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Although I was a devoted Twilight Saga fan back in the day, I have since moved on from paranormal romance so when I heard this book was coming out, I was keen to read it for the sake of tapping back into an old fandom but I did not have high expectations for this book. I felt this book was released at a good time when the world is enduring a global pandemic, revisiting an old fandom is just what we needed for a reprieve. Whilst I didn’t have high expectations for this book, I must admit the book did not disappoint. I had the pleasure of reading along with a group of friends and was able to share a fun reading experience with them.

First of all, what I enjoyed mostly from this book was how well Edward’s voice was captured. In some books, particularly books with multiple perspectives, it is difficult to distinguish between voices however in this one, I was able to tell straight away that it’s Edward. The way he converses, it clearly demonstrated he is an older person trapped in the role of a 17 year old boy. Admittedly his inner monologue felt like a grind at times but that being said, I understood the inner monologue and why it was constant. Midnight Sun shows us a very different Edward to the one we meet during the Twilight Saga. In Twilight, we see a vampire in control, the one who called the shots in the relationship – a very confident guy. In this book, we meet the real Edward beneath the confidence. He is in fact an individual struggling with his own demons and struggles with everyday choices of maintaining his oath to be a ‘vegetarian vampire’ and succumbing to the temptation of blood.

Midnight Sun also gave us more insight into characters we thought we knew from when we read the Twilight Saga. I was blindsided in learning the true personality of the characters we thought we knew and I was impressed at how cleverly we were able to capture the truth through Edward’s gift of mind reading. Edward’s relationships with his coven (or siblings) was also very interesting as I came to realise that there was so much about Edward and coven that I didn’t know simply because I read the Twilight Saga through Bella’s lens. Whom Edward is closest with, how each sibling came to become the Cullens etc – it was was very well written and intriguing.

Although this book takes place at the same time as Twilight and we follow the same storyline as we did in Twilight just through Edward’s lens, we are blessed with insight into Edward’s history as well as the backstories of his coven – my personal favourite is Carlisle’s backstory. I also found this book filled in a lot of blanks for example when reading a scene in Twilight that features Bella and not Edward, this book showed us what he was doing during those exact times.

Yes it’s over 700 pages long, Yes it’s been over a decade since I was really into this series… BUT… if you were a fan like me back in the day, I recommend this read… it was fun to tap back into this saga, interesting to see the gaps being filled and reading the historical aspects of Edward’s life (though I wish there were a bit more) it’s mostly dialogue so it was very easy to read but overall I enjoyed this reading experience and I was not deflated after the hype. I feel it’s worth the read.

PS: was very excited to be featured in the Sydney Morning Herald in the lead up for this book release…
Who’d of thought my fandom for this series would land me in the paper over a decade later!!!

With special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me a copy of this book.
-Annie

Rebel Gods by Will Kostakis – Book Tour

***contains minor spoilers, if you have not read Monuments by Will Kostakis yet, please do not read any further!!!!***

Newbie gods Connor, Sally and Locky want to change the world, no biggie. When their first attempted miracle doesn’t quite go to plan, they find themselves at odds with their families, the media and each other. To make matters worse, they’re drawn into a centuries old conflict between the gods of Love and Fear that just might destroy the world they’re striving to make better.

I really enjoyed this book and the characters! Like the first one, it was a lot of fun to read however this installment of the duology takes us on more of an emotional adventure as well as the fantasy adventure. I loved how the relationships developed in this book between the characters we met in Monuments: Connor, Sally and Locky… (Locky will always be my personal favourite). I also love the relationship between Connor and his mum and how that changed too not just when Connor comes of age but when he’s acquired his new power and responsibility.

Fast paced, whitty, fun and action packed – over all a great read. I can also see how the author grows each time he writes a new book, it always seems to be a step better than the last although all his books a great. This duology is highly recommended for fans who enjoy fantasy fiction set in a contemporary times with great friendships, mythology and adventure.

With special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers Australia for sending me a copy of this book and for having me on board the Rebel Gods Book Tour.

Full interview with Will Kostakis to celebrate the release of Rebel Gods can be found on Read3r’z Re-Vu Instagram: IGTV
-Annie

Havenfall by Sara Holland

“People can sniff out lies. If you can’t share the whole truth, share whatever little bit of it you can to get people on your side…”

A book that got me out of my reading slump!

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds—each with its own magic. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic firsthand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens—a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer, Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie—no one can be trusted, and no one is safe…

Starting in the middle of Colorado, “Havenfall” is like the “inn” or “central station” connecting ancient realms however one day, a realm that was sealed off was reopened and the negotiated balance that once was has been called into question – it’s now up to one person, Maddie, to take a stand in her Uncle’s place. I enjoyed how this magical story is set in the real world, as though we are living in a parallel to the magical realms and “Havenfall” is an underground movement. The opening really lured me in, the setting is amazing and the world building was informative yet written in a pace that didn’t lose me as a reader. The characters were also quite interesting too, particularly our protagonist Maddie. I liked how she exhibits strength even when she is not 100% knowledgeable of what’s around her and she feels as thought the weight of the world is resting on her shoulders. Maddie is a likeable character and I admired the way she dealt with her predicament. She was very easy to follow and I enjoyed how she narrated this story.

This book also focused on the world building, the magical system and the mystery – not a lot of romance, which I have to admit, made a pleasant change. I loved the realms one can teleport through and how they interconnected with Havenfall and how a slight mishap such as leaving a door to a portal open when you shouldn’t have can lead to all hell breaking loose. The twists and turns throughout this story really held my attention. I can also see how readers may find this book cut short where there is plenty more to tell – I put this down to the fact that a sequel is coming.

A fast paced contemporary fantasy – I highly recommend to read it.

With many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

Look out for the sequel: “Phoenix Flame” out March 2021.

 

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

From the time she was a little girl, Nia has dreamed up adventures about the Javanese mythical princess, Dewi Kadita. Now fourteen, Nia would love nothing more than to continue her education and become a writer. But high school costs money her family doesn’t have; everything her father earns selling banana fritters at the train station goes to their meager existence in the Jakarta slums―assuming he doesn’t drink it all away first.

But Nia―forced to grow up too soon to take care of her baby brother following their mother’s death during childbirth―is determined to find a way to earn her school fees. After she survives a minibus accident unharmed and the locals say she is blessed with ‘good luck magic,’ Nia exploits the notion for all its worth by charging double for her fried bananas. Selling superstitions can be dangerous, and when the tide turns and she discovers her father’s secret plan to marry her off to a much older admirer, It becomes clear that Nia’s future is being mapped without her consent.

If Nia is to write a new story for herself, she must overcome more obstacles than she could ever have conceived of for her mythical princess, and summon courage she isn’t sure she has

This is such a beautiful book I now hold so close to my heart. As an Indonesian-Australian reader, I related so much to this having been to Jakarta many times in my life, understanding the culture, the language, seeing the chaos in the city traffic, the poverty and even the slum areas. I felt close to the protagonist, Nia and I loved her fierce spirit and sheer determination of wanting to make her life her own. It is true – many girls who grow up in poverty don’t have access to education and they are often thrown into a life that’s not theirs. Nia shows these girls hope – while she accepts her responsibility to care for her younger brother in her parents’ absence, she refused to accept this to be her fate and was determined to go to high school and become a writer.

What also resonates with me is the telling of a well-known Indonesian legend throughout the book. Through the reminiscing of Nia’s mother telling her bedtime stories, to Nia telling the story to her little brother Rudi, to Nia writing her own retellings, the original legend of Nyai Roro Kidul, also known to many as the story of Dewi Kadita, was cleverly intertwined into the main story. This gave the book an element of fantasy/mythology that worked so well in balancing this contemporary (and heart touching) story.

From beginning to end, I couldn’t put this book down. The author did extremely well in bringing the Indonesian culture and legend to page as well as accurately describe chaotic scenes to slum areas of Jakarta streets. The author also did a fantastic job in keeping Bahasa Indonesian alive within the story. When writing for a wide audience, it is often challenging to find the balance between retaining original language and translation as you always lose something in translation however the balance was well done and a glossary is included for non Indonesian speakers to further understand the references.

I was so engrossed in this book and I am so thankful this book has been written – it is difficult for me to find books with Indonesian representation. I believe this book can be enjoyed by readers of all cultures as I feel it is eye opening for those who don’t know that much about Jakarta, Indonesia or Indonesian traditions and life – however it is also relatable for those who share the Indonesian culture as I do. I now want to go to Pelabuhan Ratu to see the very place the legend of Nyai Roro Kidul aka Dewi Kadita (which you read about in this book) is based.

-Annie