The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

**Content warnings: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers.**

“…Your people, my people, our people, they’re everyone. They’re Malaysians. It’s not Malays killing Chinese or Chinese killing Malays. It’s stupid people killing stupid people.”

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

“How do you expect unity to grow from seeds of self-interest? Look at the riots in Penang last year….”

This book was an incredibly powerful historical fiction that really brings the bloody history of Malaysia in 1969 to life. I was able to relate to it from a cultural and religious perspective as I am part Indonesian and Muslim so the cultural values, language, religious referencing places, food, even the civil unrest is something I was very familiar with. I was engrossed from the first page as the writing was very easy to follow but I agree the story may be difficult for some readers to stomach and as I recommend this book, please note my recommendation comes with a warning. The content in this book is definitely not for a younger audience – it’s definitely an older YA novel.

Our protagonist is Melati Ahmad’s torment and journey really came to life in my mind and it was heart wrenching to read about innocent people trapped in a war zone but aren’t just fighting for survival – they are battling their own demons as well, in this case, the djinn that keeps controlling Melati’s mind in horrific ways. Yes this book is quite confronting and very detailed in bringing out the violence and Melati’s torment. Personally, I was able to handle it as I felt the author really nailed it with her writing and explored these themes very well. I really kept turning the page yearning to know what happens next. I shed tears as I read the epilogue – it was so touching and final. I was convinced to pick this book up sooner than I planned and I wondered why I took so long to read this.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction with an element of ‘urban fantasy’ (which I believe is a metaphor in this story) and strong cultural representation. Please note, again, my recommendation comes with a trigger warning. This book contains graphic details and violence, death, racism, war and mental illness and I believe this to be more suited to older readers. Please do not read this book if you feel it may be harmful to you in any way.

Happy to say this is another book love for 2019. Just amazingly written, very insightful, a book I won’t forget anytime soon.

Publisher: Salaam Reads – subsidiary of Simon and Schuster
-Annie

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Kidz Korner School Holiday Special Round Up of Recommendations

Easter is here which means the kids are on school holidays!! We really enjoyed these children’s books so we hope you have fun with these titles over the break!!


It’s a Book by Lane Smith

Playful and lighthearted with a subversive twist that is signature Lane Smith, It’s a Book is a delightful manifesto on behalf of print in the digital age. This satisfying, perfectly executed picture book has something to say to readers of all stripes and all ages. This title has Common Core connections.

Interesting way to introduce someone to a real life book. Where you don’t need to recharge, scroll internet or even click the mouse. Within “It’s a Book” we get to see one fall in love with reading.

Recommended to younger readers from aged 4 years and up.
-Meredith

Little Green Donkey by Anuska Allepuz
Little Donkey loves to eat grass. And only grass. Nothing else. He has grass for breakfast, lunch and dinner. YUM. Will his mum ever persuade him to try some new food?

This was such a cute picture book very suitable to reading to young kids as young as 2-3 years old. Its a story that teaches a valuable lesson – when too much of something may have its ramifications. In this case, when the little donkey eats too much grass, he turns green! Not a lot of sentences on the page which holds a toddler’s attention. Cute artwork featuring fruits, vegetables, donkeys and other animals! It was fun and highly recommended as a good kids read.

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie


Imagine a City by Elise Hurst

Imagine a world without edges . . . where bunnies and bears ride bicycles, lions read books, and buses are fish that fly through the clouds. In the city of imagination, anything is possible, and an outing with their mother brings a world of adventure to two lucky children.

The illustrations are beautiful and the words only enhance the illustrations.

With each new page, I was wishing that I was in the world. Where fish were buses or having gargoyles having tea next to you. Or even rabbits reading the newspapers.
-Meredith

Moonwalkers by Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton
Dream astronaut dreams, and celebrate Australia’s role in one of humanity’s greatest achievements, the moon landing of 1969. Moonwalkers is a joyous story of imagination and play – the greatest bedtime story ever told. When Apollo 11 blasts off for the moon, the whole world is watching. On the other side of the planet, Billy, Mickey and Buzz decide to be astronauts too.

It was such a joy to see children enjoy this insightful story of one of history’s greatest moments!! The story and the illustrations kept their attention and it is highly recommended as a family read to children as young as 3 years and up.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Why I Love Summer by Michael Wagner and Tom Jellett
There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!
Sunny days, weekends at the pool, games in the backyard, daylight until late and long, lovely holidays . . . that’s summer, the best season ever.

“Why I Love Summer” goes through the joys of Summer that children see and go through. We get to see the beach, the pool and games such as backyard cricket.

Oh! the joys of summer holidays!!!

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

Extraordinary Life of Michelle Obama – The Extraordinary Lives Puffin Series
A bold new non-fiction series that focuses on the lives of inspirational historical and modern figures. This one in particular focuses on the extraordinary life of a lawyer, writer, activist and First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama. It explores how she has become a role model and modern icon all over the world. From her childhood in Chicago, to her role as an advocate for women and diversity, via her incredibly influential time in the White House, be inspired by her determination, her voice and her story.

“As ever, there were people who criticised Michelle for her work. No matter how much she did or didn’t do, there was always someone out there who had an opinion.”

Although a book written for a younger audience that is definitely recommended to young readers from ages 7 years and up, this book can be read and enjoyed by an older audience who have an interest in getting to know Michelle Obama’s life without having to invest in extensive reading or research. This book is a snapshot or summary of the former U.S First Lady’s life, achievements and passions. She is one remarkable and inspirational woman, I have always liked the Obamas but since reading this book and gaining a little more insight into Michelle’s life, I have an even greater respect for her. I love her strength, her courage, her passion for education and equality, her love for family and her determination in life. I loved her resilience as she herself experienced racism at a young age – she didn’t let that get her down, it was always on wards and upwards with her. I found it was very interesting to see how hard she worked to become who she is and to see her status was not simply given to her on a platter – she earned it. How she met her husband Barack Obama for the first time was a sweet and funny story. I highly recommend this to young readers as Michelle Obama is an inspiration and I also recommend this to older readers who do have an interest in her life and would like a quicker insight.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

“Absolute power can corrupt even the purest of hearts. Such is the folly of men…”

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

With an army of demons and the unlikeliest of allies,  secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself….

“The tiniest pebble, when dropped into a pond, will leave ripples that will grow and spread in ways we cannot comprehend” 

I really enjoyed the read along I experienced with 2 dear friends. This book got me hooked from the first page, so much happened virtually straight away. I loved how the story line explored the Japanese culture and legend and I would recommend this to readers who loved Kylie Chan’s “Dark Heavens” series. It was captivating, action packed and really intriguing.

The only flaw was the confusing switching of perspectives throughout the book. Normally it’s quite clear whose voice we are reading but this one took me a moment or 2 in the next chapter before I realised who we were following. But other than that, it was a great book! A great story with strong Asian cultural representation, so much action particularly from the first chapter that really caught my attention and maintained the pace throughout the book. I particularly loved the ending and I will be investing in the next book.

With special thanks to Book Depository for sending me this book as a thank you for when I engaged in their mini Blogstars project. It’s really worth the read!
-Annie