Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

“A tailor’s worth is not measured by his fame, but by the happiness he brings..”

This was one of the most anticipated reads of 2019 (for me). This unique story is told by Maia Tamarin, a young girl who strives to her restore her family’s honour through her skill as a tailor.

“Don’t work so hard you become the kite that never flies..”

In a world where only males can be imperial tailors, Maia takes her brother’s place by disguising herself as a boy to embark on a challenge to become A’landi’s master tailor.
With a touch of Mulan and a hint of Aladdin, complimented with action, betrayals, forbidden romance, intensity, demons and adventure, this was one exciting book that kept me turning the page from beginning to end.

“Magic is a wild, untamed energy that exists all around us”

I was engrossed in this book, I loved Maia’s determination to succeed not for glory but for her family, to restore their honour and be their provider. I enjoyed the competitive jealousy among the participants during the initial challenges for the imperial tailor selection process as it really brought out true nature of those who resort to vile acts when they’re so insecure about themselves. As the story progressed, I grew to love the connection Maia had with the Lord Enchanter and the ending has left me invested and yearning for the sequel.

Well written, fun to read and enchanting.

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

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It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

“Anything you feel after 10pm is suspect, anything after midnight should be discounted altogether”

Debut YA that is tender, funny, and compulsively readable novel about first love and its confusions, and all of the awkwardness of teen romance.

When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

A fun and quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. What I found most interesting about this book was just how dramatically times have changed. To see how youth today interact compared to the days I was in senior high school was quite eye opening – significant contrast! This book is a charming contemporary YA that explores issues teenage girls face such as body image and being self-conscious of your appearance – friendships, romance and significant changes to family dynamics that do impact the youth.

As an adult reading this book, I can see adolescence is a sensitive time, it can be difficult – one moment you’re expected to be mature, next you’re a child or you’re deemed incapable by others who try to protect you. I can see a lot of YA readers relating to this book as well as enjoy the entertainment that came with the story.

I found Natalie to be a likeable character – she wasn’t a spoilt, whiny teenager, she is a smart teen who is trying to find her place in the world when she feels like she’s floating in orbit following changes within her own family and friendship group. Change isn’t always easy.

I enjoyed the referencing (particularly with Harry Potter and the 80’s-90’s movies lol) It was easy to read, a lot of fun and insightful. Recommended to those who enjoy contemporary YA – with some of the themes covered in this book I would advise an age rating of 16 years and up.

Special thanks to Text Publishing for an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Annie

***MEET NINA KENWOOD!!!***
Annie will be hosting a Q&A with Nina Kenwood to launch “It Sounded Better in my Head” at Dymocks, Sydney on Saturday 17 August 2019 from 11am – come join the fun!!!

Monuments by Will Kostakis

“Crafting something, seeing that creation flourish, that is what satiates us, not the size of our followings.” 

All 16-year-old Connor is trying to do is avoid his ex-best friend when he stumbles upon a trapdoor to a secret chamber under his school. But when Sally Rodgers breaks into the same secret chamber looking for an ancient being, things take an unexpected turn . . . and Connor’s life will never be the same again.

Along with the mysterious Sally and, later on, his new friend Locky, Connor discovers the Monuments – gods who have been buried for generations – who created the world and hid themselves away from humanity to keep everyone safe. But now they’re exposed and vulnerable, and Connor isn’t sure who, himself included, can be trusted with the knowledge and the power these gods have.

“Life is not some static thing that is made and left alone, it constantly remakes itself. Life requires attention, nurturing..”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having read all of Will’s work to date, I can see how much he has grown as a writer and he’s done so well with this book. From setting the scene and developing the story that started in a school and embarked into a whole new world. Will did really well in bringing out important teen issues that include friendships and fall outs, change, sexuality and coming to terms with your own identity.

The story is full of fast paced, exhilarating adventure that is set in Sydney and intertwined with Greek mythology and suspense. I love mythology so having this as a strong element in the story was awesome. I felt the way the gods are portrayed in this story was clever and different. Will also did very well capturing most of Sydney in this book, particularly western Sydney as it’s an area most often overlooked in literature (GO BLACKTOWN!)

I enjoyed following this story from the protagonist, Con’s perspective but I have to say my favourite character is Locky. I loved his chilled nature and his intellect. I was able to relate to him as he really reminded me of me when I was in high school (wanting to study international relations and politics to work for the Australian public service)

Fast paced and easy to be engrossed in. I highly recommend to YA readers ages 14 years and up who enjoy fast paced adventure with contemporary friendships and romance and strong presence of mythology.

“A life spent running is not one lived…”

Special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this book.
Due for release: August/September 2019
-Annie

My Name is not Peaseblossom by Jackie French

Titania rose to her feet. ‘What is going on here, Peaseblossom?’ she demanded.

I bowed to her. ‘I apologise, Your Majesty. But I’d rather be known as Pete.’

‘Pete?’ She frowned. ‘That’s no name for a fairy.’

‘No, it isn’t, ‘ I said, meeting her eyes.

At court, he’s known as Peaseblossom, a servant to the Fairy Queen.

But as Pete, he prefers pizza to sugarplums and denim to daffodils. He wants to choose his own life too. But how can he when a fairy’s sole duty is to obey the all-powerful Queen Titania?

This is Shakespeare’s popular and delightful comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream with an added army of Amazons, a sea serpent and a selkie called Gaela, who luckily for Pete makes the best pizza in the world.

It is also a story of the intrigues of the Fairy Court, of vampire plots to dominate the world and of impossible loves that might just come true. Not by enchantment, but when two hearts thread together, making a magic of their own.

I was quite excited to read this book as it was pitched as a “A mid-summer night’s dream” retelling. The story was quick to read and the transition between fae world and real world was particularly interesting however the story traveled at the same pace from beginning to end. It didn’t have the peaks and troughs that most books have, this remained the same throughout the entire book. If you’re looking for a book that grabs you with intensity, this isn’t it.. This book is something you would read to bridge gaps between reads or when you need something light to read after a draining day. It was funny and it was interesting, the dialogue was funny. I also enjoyed the Shakespearean references which reinforces this is a Shakespeare retelling and I would recommend this to readers as young as 10 years old.

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

Nullaboo Hullabaloo by Fleur Ferris

In faraway Nullaboo, Gemma Hart’s day isn’t going well. Her family might be evicted from their farm, and her science competition topic is march flies. How can she possibly win against perfect Nina, who gets to study butterflies?

But wait, that’s not a feather in Gemma’s special bug catcher… it’s a fairy!

Janomi the fairy isn’t supposed to talk to humans, but desperately needs help. Her grandfather has been captured by the silver spiders. Gemma agrees to help Janomi, and to keep the fairies’ existence a secret. But her bug catcher has recorded their conversation – and Nina finds it.

With a media frenzy taking over Nullaboo, a secret government agency barges in to take control, and suddenly the fairy colony is under an even bigger threat. Gemma and her kooky family, school and resourceful neighbours must take matters into their own hands in an against-all-odds bid to save the last fairy colony on Earth.

A huge contrast from the first for Young Adult books I have read by Fleur, this book is an amazing magical escapism that is set in an Aussie country town and a book that can be enjoyed by readers as young as 9 years old!! The story was so engaging, the characters were adorable and the adventure was just so much fun. It’s lovely to see magical fairy stores set on farms in Australia and to see rural Australia represented here. So cleverly written. Highly recommended to young readers from 9-12 years old.

With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir

Andy Weir, author of The MartianArtemis, and The Egg, is back with a graphic novel like no other. What happens to Alice when she comes back from Wonderland? Wendy from Neverland? Dorothy from Oz? This graphic novel is an interesting cross over of three completely different characters from three completely different worlds. A unique story of what becomes of these characters when the worlds we know and have read have come to an end.

I thought this was such a very clever storyline and I liked how this brought three completely different tales and worlds together in a real world setting. It was interesting to see how the characters were initially perceived as mentally ill when disclosing their supernatural and otherworldly experiences. This landed them committed to wards until one day, they all meet at the Cheshire Crossing – a boarding school that acknowledges their experiences as truth and nurtures them to cope with their past experience and harness their magical world-crossing abilities.

This isn’t like anything you would have read before, the underlying storyline for each character is present and acts as a foundation but the characters are very different to what we know in their original stories, making it a humorous and insightful twist. From their attitudes, to their illustrated appearance, to their mannerism, they are all very different to what we remember. In this story, the characters: Alice, Wendy Darling and Dorothy are now teenagers and are not content to sit still in a classroom. Soon they are dashing from one universe to the next – landing in each other’s supernatural worlds and, inadvertently, bringing the Wicked Witch and Hook together in a deadly supervillain love match. This is when it the three need to draw on their abilities to stop destruction from across each universe.

The plot is fast paced and the story flowed quickly, it was easy to follow the dialogue in each box. The illustrations didn’t look extravagant but were simplistic and elegant. The artwork is suitable for a younger audience, however, the dialogue does include course language so please exercise discretion if you choose to read this graphic novel. If you’re a fan of graphic novels that features retellings of the classics then definitely give this one a go!

What happens to Alice when she comes back from Wonderland? Wendy from Neverland? Dorothy from Oz?

The three meet here, at Cheshire Crossing–a boarding school where girls like them learn how to cope with their supernatural experiences and harness their magical world-crossing powers.

But the trio–now teenagers, who’ve had their fill of meddling authority figures–aren’t content to sit still in a classroom. Soon they’re dashing from one universe to the next, leaving havoc in their wake–and, inadvertently, bringing the Wicked Witch and Hook together in a deadly supervillain love match.

To stop them, the girls will have to draw on all of their powers . . . and marshal a team of unlikely allies from across the magical multiverse.

Special thanks to my friends at The Nerd Daily who hooked me up with this graphic novel for review.
-Annie

Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories Blog Tour

Twelve of Australia’s best writers from the LGBTQ+ community are brought together in this ground-breaking collection of YA short stories.

What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human? In this powerful #LoveOzYA collection, twelve of Australia’s finest writers from the LGBTQ+ community explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers – the connections that form us. This inclusive and intersectional #OwnVoices anthology for teen readers features work from writers of diverse genders, sexualities and identities, including writers who identify as First Nations, people of colour or disabled. With short stories by bestsellers, award winners and newcomers to young adult fiction including Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin.

If you never had to search for place to belong or for friends who understood you, then consider yourself lucky.

For those of us whom ever sat, or sit, on the edge of the realms of common or hetero-normative society, looked for people to call our tribe. Someone who could innately relate to us, whose eyes lit up in recognition, should we describe an intrinsic event, or part of our lives.

The passion-project of Michael Earp comes this anthology of short stories from authors as varied in their careers as they are in the spectrum of the LGBTQI+ community.

From alternate futures where gender is the other and innocent chance encounters behind curtains, to awkward conversations with relatives and internal struggles with the Id.
This book brings unique stories told from the point of view of individuals finding themselves, coming to terms with their identities and discovering similar or like-minded individuals.

Through the voices of the characters, one is confronted with different personal realities where the humanity, inner and outer struggles of these colourful individuals is explored.
Regardless of whether you connect personally with the individual characters, or if you’re an ally, or even someone who is seeking to understand queer culture, this book comes through with stories which are both imaginative and educational.

Included in the book are helpful resources for young queer individuals to reference, should they seek advice or even someone to open up to and speak with.

A wonderful book I wish I had encountered in my teens and which I would recommend for any teen exploring and, or coming to terms with their sexuality or identity.

With special thanks to Walker Books Publishers and Aus YA Bloggers for having me on board for this Blog Tour
-Patrick