Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Publisher: Hachette – Date.A.Book YA

With foreword by James Patterson, this epic Western Dystopian presents a bold new heroine. Meet Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s Wild, Wild West…

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity (Pity) Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and the perfect aim. set in the West that is now wild post a Second Civil War that breaks what was The U.S, it is now a savage place. When Pity takes a stand for her own freedom, she finds herself in being offered a life of fame and fortune in division called ‘Cessation’ – A glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life.

A wild, western dystopian like none I have ever read before!!! I loved this book!!! So the first couple of chapters are mildly paced to set the scene then suddenly – BAM! – it goes off in chapter 4 and propels forward ever since!! What I loved about this book besides its action packed adventure was the unique setting and the main character we follow, Serendipity “Pity” Jones who takes a stand against the world she once knew and escapes only to find herself on a dangerous path where the one card Pity has up her sleeve is the one card she is hesitant to use: her unbelievable shooting skill. The ever changing plot twist throughout this book kept me guessing, turning the page and towards the end, I was still questioning who can I trust – some shady characters in this story!! A book that is action packed, humorous with mild romance and captivating plot – dystopian fans.. you really should give this one a go!!

-Annie

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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe: Book 1) by Neal Shusterman

Thou shalt kill

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

This book is amazingly good! One of my favourite 2018 YA sci-fi read! Imagine a world where we’re so advanced that we cheated death and are immortal but in order to control the population growth, people have to be randomly killed off. The only people with that privilege to kill or grant immunity from death is if you’re a scythe. Therefore being a Scythe is both revered and feared.

This is a jam packed action book following two teenagers Citra and Rowan who became scythe apprentices, they must learning the art of killing but before all that they must learn to understand humanity, morals and humility. There’s politics, friendships and love on the line, and a deadly political competition to determine who will become the new Scythe and who will be gleaned. It’s a morbidly fascinating fast pace read with lots of plot twists. It’s so different to what I had expected!!!

I am now reading the sequel – keep an eye out for it!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me review copies of these books
-NJ

Short Stories – Muslim Voices

The 9th month of the Islamic Calendar marks the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. A special time of the year where Muslims worldwide reflect on their faith, commemorate the birth of Islam (divine revelation) and engage in a month of sun up to sun down fasting. A time to reflect and a time for prayer. And.. in a blink of an eye – the count down is on again as we are due to start mid-May 2018.

As we enter the holy month, I wanted to take a quick moment to share 2 books that bring out Muslim voices in Australia as I found these collections of short stories so insightful and inspiring. Personally, as a Muslim reader, I love seeing stories like this becoming more and more available for Muslim and Non-Muslim readers alike as I believe wonderful books like these do in fact help bring a mutual understanding within the community. They bridge gaps, dispel myths and even open up positive discussion.

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia – edited by Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

“Muslim people in Australia come from over 70 countries and represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and experiences. Yet we are constantly bombarded by media stories feeding one negative stereotype. What is it really like to grow up Muslim in Australia? In this book, famous and not-so-famous Muslim-Australians tell their stories in their own voices.”
Growing up a Muslim, hijab wearing Aussie of Indonesian heritage, I related to this book and the stories within very much. Sadly, the battle is real and when we say this, it’s not to play victim – it’s simply to call it what it is. These honest stories resonated with me and I believe them to be insightful for all readers as it provides different snapshots and perspectives of Muslim life in Australia that most importantly, dispel myths, stereotypes, and above all celebrates diversity, courage and friendship. A beautiful coming of age group that is said to be “coloured with many shades of humour, warmth, sadness, anger, determination and honesty, it will resonate with readers from all backgrounds and beliefs”

Headstrong Daughters: Inspiring Stories From The New Generation Of Australian Muslim Women – by Nadia Jamal
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

This book is a collection of short stories written by Nadia Jamal and based on interviews she conducted with ordinary Muslim women around Australia. This book takes a deeper look into the lives of Muslim women and their determination to stay true to their faith and to themselves. These are resonating stories told by working professionals, mothers and students and reveals a side that is little known and often misunderstood. This too, is a book I really related to as a young Muslim woman living in Australia, a working professional and a woman who strives to live a well balanced life with faith, work, family and being in touch with her culture without it clashing with faith. I also found this book dispelled a lot of myths that hang about with Muslim women – particularly with the hijab and status of women in Islam. I found it quite inspiring myself. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this book – this book should be available in leading book retailers.

Wishing all who commemorate the Holy Month of Ramadan a wonderful and blessed month. May your fasting come at ease and may you all have special time with loved ones this coming month.

Ramadan Mubarak!!!
-Annie

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

The mind twister of the year that deserves a 10/10!!

The story is told by Tash Carmody, a young girl who has been traumatised since she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival when they were kids. Being 8 years old, Tash didn’t have a filter and simply told the truth – yet at the time nobody believed Tash, and was accused of making stories up simply for attention – after years of therapy, she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real – it was all in her head. Years later, Mallory Fisher is 15 years old and has never spoken about the week she went missing. Time passes and history seems to be repeating itself causing Tash to question whether she is in fact control of her own faculties. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash soon realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them and what happened that fateful day at the Carnival..

I was hooked on this from page one and the only reason it took a day or two to read it was due to my need to read it in daylight hours. This YA thriller kept me guessing right up to the very end. It sucked me in so deep that I was so determined for answers and all the way through I was even asking myself, did Tash just see Mallory wonder off from the carnival the day she disappeared or did Tash really see Mallory get abducted by someone she can only identify as her imaginary friend, Sparrow? Did the disappearance even happen or is this all in her head? Or is Tash somehow involved with historical events and it’s more sinister?

As I was reading along with this incredibly unreliable narrator, I found her struggle to piece together truths where her mind blurred lines between reality and fantasy messed with my head too!! I was developing all sorts of theories and at one stage, EVERYONE was a suspect! I was the quickest I have read a book in such a long time I was just determine to know what really happened – It’s one great book that is structured so well with a backstory that pieces history together as you carry on with present day events, a story that kept me hanging right to the end, awake at night and absolutely gob smacked in the end!!! This was a fantastic debut novel that I recommend to all who enjoy YA suspense, mystery and intrigue!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book and well done to debut author Sarah Epstein on writing such an epic thriller of a story!! KUDOS!!!
-Annie

Kidz Corner Round Up of Recommendations

As part of our love for reading, we love exploring reads that are suitable for the younger generation so we can reach out and encourage the younger audience to immerse themselves in a great book. The following are recommendations for children ranging from picture books to junior fiction.. enjoy!!

Coco: My First, Little people, BIG DREAMS by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Ana Albero
This cute little kids book is an introduction to a world renowned designer whose life, though quite controversial, was very interesting. Having read her biography once before, I wondered how they would tame the life story of a woman who created the world’s famous scent Coco Chanel into a children’s book but I have to say the authors and illustrators did a fabulous job to tell her story through sequential art and few words. The drawings reminded me of the cartoon “Madeleine”. Quick read, definitely suitable to read to a younger audience – even 4 years and under as it’s a hard bound picture book. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Square by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
This book is about Square. Square spends every day taking blocks from a pile below the ground to a pile above the ground. This book is also about Square’s friend Circle. Circle thinks Square is an artistic genius. But is he really? This is a touching tale of how one might not always see their strong point(s) while others can. A picture book suitable for children from the ages 3 years and up – special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

Begone the Raggedy Witches, Book 1 of The Wild Magic Trilogy by Celine Kiernan
This was indeed Ireland’s answer to JK Rowling! A middle grade, magical adventure that crosses over realms for a challenge between good and evil and a young girl’s quest to saved loved ones. Although the target audience would be middle grade readers from ages 8 and up, I found it to be so well written, even adults could enjoy the tale. The story is fast paced and the action begins from page one and manages to hold the reader captive to the end. I believe this is a promising start to an epic trilogy. The dialogue is quite humorous and I also found the notion of “forced rhyming” among some of the characters quite clever. Mup is the main character and a likeable one at that, a lovely character with an open heart and determination to conquer evil. You will meet other characters along the way who will stay with you even at the end of the story. I personally enjoyed the story and I do look forward to the sequel. Recommended to younger readers and adults who are young at heart. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride but a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. This was an extremely beautiful picture book without words. As we read A Stone for Sascha, we follow a young girl’s grieving process for their family pet. Suitable for young readers from ages 5 and up – special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

The Rise of the Dawnstar by Farah Oomerbhoy

Aurora Firedrake returns in the spellbinding sequel to The Last of the Firedrakes.

The seven kingdoms of Avalonia are crumbling and evil is spreading across the land like a plague. Queen Morgana is close to finding a way to open The Book of Abraxas and it’s only a matter of time until she uses the power trapped inside its pages to enslave the entire world.

BLOODY CLIFFHANGERS!!!

I’m currently using my inside voice as I scream into my pillow over this cliffhanger!!

I am also searching one handed through my books trying to find the next book until I realised that book three has not yet been released (now I am crying into my pillow because I want to know what happens next).

The characters grow and follow the path of getting slightly wiser, as we follow Aurora along, she meets new people, family and comes into her power.

I need the next book!!!

-Meredith