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

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

Snow by Gina Inverarity Blog Tour

A dark and lyrical Snow White retelling set in a post climate-change world, Snow is a fairy-tale of the future.

 

When the girl brought my bowl she was in and out through the door like she couldn’t move fast enough. And when the lock clicked after her I found something she’d left. A knife. And not one for spreading butter, but a sharp one for slitting throats.

Locked in a cell by her stepmother, Snow grows small but she still grows. Even so, she’s hardly a match for a world gone wild, where the sun has disappeared behind clouds for good. The night the hunter takes her into the forest with orders to cut out her heart, Snow makes him a promise she isn’t sure she can keep. And then she runs. Snow’s life is no fairytale. As she grows up her path will take her into the mountains, over misty passes, desolate gorges and alpine rivers, as well as to the city, where she will make her case for the return of what is hers. And her childish promise will not be forgotten.

Growing up, Snow White was always my favourite fairytale and I have often sought out Snow White retellings so what grabbed me in the first instance was how this story is a retelling set in a post climate change era. We often read Snow White set in historical or medieval times so why it took a moment for me to get my head around the new setting, this was very enjoyable and cleverly executed. The characters we meet and follow in this book are those you come to like, particularly the Little Bear and The Hunter whom Snow spends a lot of time with during this story.  Although this was a work of fiction, the author did well in exploring effects of climate change and cleverly weaving those themes into the story.

Overall I enjoyed this story and would rate this a retelling that was very well done. I enjoyed the plot and the characters. The pacing was just right and I believe I would not just recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings but to readers of fantasy stories that are either inspired or set in the real world as you can address real world issues through a fantasy lens. Suitable for readers from 12 years and up. With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers and Wakefield Press for having me on board for their Snow Blog Tour.

About the Author:
Gina Inverarity worked for many years as an editor for a range of publishers. Her first children’s book, The Brown Dog, was published in 2017. Gina owns a forest in New Zealand and hopes to live in it one day. For now, she lives in Wellington with her partner and two daughters. Snow is her first young adult novel.

Connect to the author: 
Website: https://www.ginainverarity.com/
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/ginainver/ 

Locate this book for more info:
Wakefield Press: https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1568&cat=0&page=&featured=Y

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49722630-snow

Australian Bloggers: https://ausyabloggers.blogspot.com/2020/05/snow-review-tour.html

-Annie

The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks – Blog Tour + Q&A

First of all, huge congratulations to Danielle Binks on the release of her debut… and what a job well done!!!

Sorrento, Victoria – 1999
Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.

Knowing what an intense story this could be, I was surprised at how easy it was to get engrossed into this book. I felt I was able to connect with the characters and really follow the story intently. The themes of this book were so important – from family, to friendship to the issues of refugees, specifically Kosovar-Albanian refugees in the late 90’s.  The story really is touching and one that will stay with me for awhile. Written very well and very engaging – highly recommended to readers from 10 years old and up though some parental guidance may be required for some of the themes covered in the book. I really appreciate being part of this blog tour. With many thanks to Hachette Publishers and Aus YA bloggers for providing me with an advance review copy and for having me on board for this blog tour. Please read on for a short Q&A with the author herself!!! Congrats again, Danielle!!!
-Annie
Could you describe your writing process when writing this book and how this experience felt constructing your first novel?
My writing process for The Year the Maps Changed was horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. 
 
I had the idea in about 2016, to go back to examine this year I remembered from my own childhood and the real political event of ‘Operation Safe Haven’. I wrote a prologue in the heat of my first brainstorming, and then …. I went off and conducted procrastinated research for about 5-years. Don’t get me wrong, the research was important – but 5-years was a little ridiculous and it’s clear to me now that I was stalling. I was very intimidated to write historic-fiction, and get something *wrong*. But then towards the tail-end I just got so sick of myself for putting it off, that I wrote the first draft in a fever of 3-months … and discovered that actually; researching is not writing, WRITING is actual writing. Funny, that. 
 
And a sign that I could have written this a lot earlier if I’d just got out of my own way, was the fact that the prologue I wrote on Day 1 in 2016 didn’t change. It was my launching-off point and remained my prologue forevermore. It’s the one part of the story (the crucial beginning that gave me a framework for the WHOLE thing) that I got right from Day 1, and I should have followed-through more quickly … 
Your story is inspired by true events – was this a personal experience or something you came to know and followed closely over time?

I was the same age as my protagonist in 1999, and so while I remembered ‘Operation Safe Haven’ it was truly only ever vague recollections and more this feeling of … needing to tuck that little spark away somewhere, and take it out to examine later. Which I did – and partly because around 2015/16 politicians were throwing out the idea of reopening the Point Nepean Quarantine Station, and using it as a detention centre. But that got a lot of pushback from locals (and luckily, has not happened) – and a lot of the pushback was to do with how that wasn’t in the spirit of Operation Safe Haven and the last time refugees had been housed there. It wasn’t a ‘detention centre’ then, as we awfully know them now – it was a Safe Haven. Two beautiful words I remembered from long ago, and I decided to go down that rabbit-hole of history and memory …

By the time I got around to wondering what that historic event meant in a wider context for Australian and world politics, I was able to see this remarkable story unfolding with the gift of hindsight, and from a vantage point of knowing how Australia treats refugees and asylum seekers *now* – so I wanted to go back and kind of track how we got to such a point of inhumanity and brutality.

Is there a particular character in this book you can relate to? Why?
Oh gosh, Fred. I gave her the best and worst of me – and some things I gave her were a reflection of my own childhood (like a father in the police-force, and a grandparent who lives out the back of the main house). Fred and her actions are largely coloured by grief, and come out of her through fear and anger, and that wasn’t me. I haven’t had nearly as tough a life as Fred has – but also; I wouldn’t have handled the kind of childhood Fred’s had, with such eventual grace and understanding I don’t think. She’s a prickly character, which I also relate to (and frankly, I quite like reading young female characters who are sometimes awful, and nasty, selfish and egotistical – I think young female characters often get this ‘goodness’ injection to them in the hopes that readers don’t turn against them, but I wanted to show a young girl who is grappling with a lot and making mistakes but by golly, she’s also growing and embracing). 

Kidz Korner School Holidays Special Recommendations

These school holidays, check out these great books highly recommended for children ages 4 and up…

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern wowed the World by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris.
Meet Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who hopes the things she’s done will help everyone, especially children, to believe that they can do great things too.

An inspiring illustrated story for children about Jacinda Ardern, and her meteoric rise to become the world’s youngest female leader.

This was a wonderful picture book that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. I have always been fond of Jacinda Ardern, I honestly wish she was our PM here in Australia. I admire her leadership and her humbleness. Learning about her life before politics was quite interesting and I enjoyed the quick read in the form of a picture book. It’s very easy to follow and recommended to school aged children, I believe this picture book should be in school library shelves. With special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced review copy of this book.

Roo knows Blue by Renee Treml
This was such a cute read that could not have come at a better time, with Australia burning and many Australian animals lost, this cute book is a way to teach children how to count, various colours through fun rhymes sung by Australian animals. It’s a lot of fun to read aloud and can be enjoyed by children as young as 3 years old. It makes a great family read. With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me an Advance review copy of this book. 

 

Total Quack Up! Again! Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, Illustrated by Jules Faber
Following the success of “Total Quack Up” we are back with “Total Quack Up! Again!” Another collection of short stories written by Australian Authors to endorse reading among children with all proceeds of this book going directly to Dymocks Charities. The short stories are a lot of fun to read, a compilation of criminal cats, daring superheroes, footy-obsessed pigs, disastrous birthday parties, crazy robots and beach loving hippos. Such an entertaining light read – highly suitable to children as young as 6 years old, a fun read to keep the kids occupied during the holidays… keep an eye out for the first book too! With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending review copies of these books.

-Annie

Golden Unicorn: Rise of the Mythix Book 1 by Anh Do, illustrated by Chris Wahl

Published by: Allen and Unwin

Some heroes are legends. Some legends are real.

The tyrant known as the Soul Collector hunts down anything that is beautiful, unusual or unique.

Kelly Swift is trying hard to be an average teenager, to fit in. But every day her powers are growing: she can run faster than the wind, she can hear people’s thoughts, she is not normal.

When her mother is taken by the Soul Collector, Kelly can’t linger in the shadows any longer. But who is she really? Can she be the one in the prophecy? Is she…the Golden Unicorn?

The Golden Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin –
Only these three united to a common purpose
can fell him who seeks to triumph over all…

I read this in one sitting! This is the first time I have ever read a MG fantasy book written by Anh Do and wow he nails it! Such a great story and written so well that even targeted for a younger audience, this book can be enjoyed by older readers too. I loved the plot, how the characters developed even the illustrations were very impressive. I found this book helped me for my own MG book writing too (thank you Mr Do) highly recommended to readers from ages 9 and up.. very enjoyable and adventurous.
-Annie

Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime by Lisa Harvey-Smith, illustrated by Mel Matthews

Want to take a fun and educational journey throughout our night sky?

Explore our solar system from the comfort of your cozy bedroom… Find out why the sky is blue… Fly around a black hole and peer inside! Learn why Jupiter has stripes…

I was first intrigued by this book because I read that an actual astrophysicist wrote it so I knew this book was going to be beneficial as well as fun to read. Having read this with a young audience, I found it quite exciting and clever how the author approached mysteries of outer space. The illustrations were beautiful and I see this book to be an ideal gift for children ages 6 and up or for curious adults such as myself.

With special thanks to Melbourne University Press for sending me a copy of this book for review.
-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

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

Junior Fiction Round Up of Recommendations

Here is a round up of books that are highly recommended to the younger readers…
These were great we hope you enjoy them!!!

Children of the Dragon: The Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
Although this book can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, this is highly recommended to readers aged 8 years and up. Thoroughly enjoyable full of culturally infused adventure, fun characters and a lot of action – very cool magic and martial arts that holds the attention of an 8 year old reader.

When Harley Spark accidentally releases Qing, one of five dragon sisters, from the ancient vase she’s been trapped in for centuries, he is soon on a dangerous international mission with Qing to find and free her four sisters. Harley gave a little shiver as he peered at the mysterious girl’s message. She’d written: DRAGON KING RETURNS. So when Harley finds an antique Chinese vase on the footpath, something compels him to stuff it under his school jumper and run for home. Little does he know he’s about to reignite a centuries-old war between two ancient, supernatural families…  The Relic of the Blue Dragon is the first book in the action-packed Children of the Dragon.

Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book
-Annie

Good Rosie! by Katie DiCamillo, Illustrated by Harry Bliss
Picture book suitable for young readers aged 5 years and up.
A swet tale of a lonely dog, who only wants a friend or two. Rosie is shy and a bit hesitant when it comes to meeting other dogs. But Rosie overcomes her shyness to help another dog. Rosie shows us that you can make friends even if you are shy.
Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

Brimstone: Fire Watcher Chronicles, Book 1 by Kelly Gardiner
December 1940: Christopher Larkham finds an ancient Roman ring inscribed with a phoenix on the banks of the Thames. As he takes shelter from the firestorm of the Blitz, the ring glows, and pushing open a door, he finds himself in 1666 and facing the Great Fire of London. Fire-and-brimstone preacher, Brother Blowbladder, and his men of the Righteous Temple have prayed for the ancient gods of fire to bring flames down upon London, a city of sin. Could Christopher be their messenger? And why do the Righteous men wear the same phoenix symbol as the engraving on Christopher’s ring.

This is a great middle great read and a promising start to a new series. A lovely blend of time travel and, magic and mystery, suitable for readers aged 8 years and up. Fast paced and a real page turner, loved the adventure it was very easy to get into this book and read it to the very end. Excited for book 2 now.

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

 

A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy by Libby Hathorn, Illustrated by Phil Lesnie
Picture book suitable for young readers aged 7 years and up
A young soldier far away from home, a boy orphaned by war, and the stray dog that brings them together.
A beautiful illustrated story that tells us the tale of a soldier, a dog and a boy.
The illustrations in this book bring the words alive.
-Meredith