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

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D Lapinski

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure!

This as such a charming adventure, one that is suitable for readers aged 8 and up. At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside. What I enjoyed most about this was how it starts off in the real world, where we get to know Flick (Felicity) and her life and family at home then we are mesmerised as she stumbles across the Strangeworlds Travel Agency where she meets a quirky character by the name of Jonathan-  the agency’s head custodian which sets them off on several adventures to different worlds via.. a suitcase!! But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness and takes our world with it.

With a hint of Narnia, a touch of Jumanji and a pinch of fairytales, this was a wonderfully adventurous read that made me smile, gasp and laugh. It was a lot of fun to get lost in. A fast paced and very easy to read story, I highly recommend this if you’re looking to get lost on a fun fantastical adventure.

Pitched as perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The Train to Impossible Places… I would have to agree…

-Annie

Hawk by James Patterson + Gabrielle Charbonnet Blog Tour

A story for a new generation of Maximum Ride fans! Max’s daughter Hawk is growing up hard and fast in gritty, post-apocalyptic New York City. She stays under the radar to survive… until a destiny that’s perilously close to her mother’s forces her to take flight.

Hawk doesn’t know her real name. She doesn’t know who her family was, or where they went. The only thing she remembers is that she was told to stay on that street corner until they came back for her, for as long as it takes.

That was thirteen years ago…

The day that she finally gives up is the moment that her life changes forever because the promise becomes reality: someone is coming for her. But it’s not a rescue. It’s an execution.

As I don’t normally read books by James Patterson, I have to say this was one epic ride.  One that is action packed and keeps you hanging to the very end. It didn’t sink in until recently that this was part of an old series but set much later yet I have been told you don’t need to have tapped into the previous series to enjoy this one – and that’s exactly right. I was able to read this book on its own and really enjoy the action and the story. Although this is post apocalyptic setting, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the real world with corrupt governments that rule with an iron fist, violence in the streets and the like.  It really was a thrilling adventure and I enjoyed the characters and their fierce determination for survival as well as their witty – humorous dialogue. I think I’ll explore more of James Patterson’s work, this was really a great read – very fast paced, action packed – not a dull moment in sight. If you’re looking for some fast paced action adventure set in a post apocalyptic world? This one is for you!

With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for having me on board the Hawk Blog Tour and for sending me a copy of this book.

-Annie

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman Blog Tour

“Happiness, like hummingbirds, can land in your heart.”

Alba has been best friends with Levi since forever. They’re both obsessed with hummingbirds and spend their lunchtimes hiding out in the school library. Alba normally doesn’t mind that Levi’s got a science theory on just about everything. But when he becomes convinced the school librarian has discovered a wormhole in her office, Alba thinks maybe he’s gone too far.

Then there’s Cleo. That’s what Alba calls her left foot, which was twisted in the wrong direction at birth and has been strapped in a brace for most of Alba’s life. With the final cast about to come off, Alba is set on running in her first cross-country race. But what if Levi doesn’t believe she can do it?

Alba’s only ever wanted to be ‘normal’, so why does it feel like she’s losing more than Cleo and a pair of crutches?

Drawing from her own personal experience, the author has written a touching story of self-acceptance. Though a target audience of middle grade readers, this beautiful tale of courage can be enjoyed by readers young and old alike. Wonderful characters you come to care for and a lovely story-line that blends real life with a touch of sci-fi, overall it was an enjoyable and eye-opening story. With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + UQP Books for having me on board for the blog tour.

***LIVE VIDEO CHAT WITH MICHELLE KADAURUSMAN ON INSTAGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT***

Sunday 7 June 2020, 8:00am AEST/Saturday 6 June 2020, 6:00pm PDT – join Annie as she hosts a live video chat on the Read3r’z Re-Vu Instagram account with the author Michelle Kadarusman live from Toronto, Canada!!!
About The Author
Children’s author Michelle Kadarusman grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived many years throughout Indonesia and in Canada. Her children’s novels have been nominated for various awards and honours including the Canadian Governor General’s Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book List, the Freeman Book Award and the Malka Penn Book Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Her work is published internationally and has been translated to Spanish and Turkish.
Author Links
-Annie

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

This is a fantastic compilation of short stories written by Asian voices!! These short stories are clever, immersive and intriguing retellings of myths and legends from around Asia. Each story was so unique and profound and interestingly at the end of each short story, we get to read the original legend and a piece from each author explaining the legend and what it means to them and why they chose this particular myth or legend as a foundation for their retelling.

It was such a great book to read I thoroughly enjoyed it (as I am a huge fan of cultural myths and legends) and to see them recreated to other short stories with the original tale as an explanation to the story was magical for me. Personally I wish I saw an Indonesian story in there as Indonesian is a land of many myths and legends but I guess it may have to be up to me to write one!

It’s very difficult to choose a favourite as I loved each story and tale equally for different reasons. I highly recommend this to all readers who enjoy legend retellings, particularly in the form of a short stories collection.
-Annie

As Fast as I Can by Penny Tangey Blog Tour

One girl. One dream. A few hurdles.

Ten-year-old Vivian is determined to win a medal at the Olympic Games one day. Problem is, she hasn’t found a sport she’s any good at yet. But everyone says if you work hard enough you can achieve anything, right? So when Vivian discovers she has a talent for cross country running, finally, her Olympic dream might actually come true.

But then a family illness is uncovered and all of Vivian’s plans begin to unravel.

Can she keep her dream alive?

Or will she be stopped in her tracks?

First of all, I need to say that this book made me feel old (lol) as it brought back memories of my school days – particularly the sports carnivals. I as never much of an athlete but I was a fairly good long distance runner and even made it to district/regional competitions. Although I didn’t aspire to become an athlete, as children, we all have dreams and what really touched my heart about this story was our main character – Vivian – and her dream to make it big in the Olympics only to have it snatched away from her on account of her chronic illness. I don’t normally enjoy books that feature illnesses as it is too harrowing for me to read at times but I felt the author really covered this important theme very well and weaved it into a beautiful and engaging story.

The story was easy to follow, touching and the character was very likeable.  I feel this story can be enjoyed by readers of all ages whether still in school or whether they farewelled those days long ago – it brings back a lot of memories (and understanding – imagine if this was you).  Although this was left with an opening ending, I feel it was still a good story and hey – that’s how life can be, this story is regarding a portion of someone’s life, our futures remain an open pathway.

With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + UQP Books Publishers for having me on board for this Blog Tour.
-Annie