“The Rift” and exclusive video con with international author Rachael Craw

When The Rift opens… Death follows…

With special thanks to Walker Books Publishers, I had the honour of having a video conference via Whatsapp with international best-selling author from New Zealand, Rachael Craw!!!! It was such a fun conversation, one we were most excited for as we got to know each other and had a lovely chat about her upcoming book in our trackies and in the comfort of our own home.

Best known for her Spark Trilogy: “Spark”, “Stray” and “Shield”, Rachael is back with a new book “The Rift” that is due to hit Sydney bookstores in November 2018!!! This is one story that’s got me very intrigued and a story that is very different from her previous works. Rachael tells me that this was a story that was burning inside for so long and she was inspired to write this just after an awards ceremony when “Stray” received a literary award (kudos!). In her mind, Rachael had many stories flowing however the stories that stuck and formed part of her inspiration to write “The Rift” were stories from Greek Mythology: Greek goddesses Artemus and Eileithiya and an ancient curse that lives on in modern times in a location where there is a gap between time and space and the people in this location must live and deal with the confines of a small island. A place where the coastline boxes you in and technology is really not compatible there. This place is now known as “Blackwater Island” in “The Rift”.

The Rift
Generations of Rangers have guarded the Old Herd against the horrors of The Rift and Cal West, an apprentice Ranger, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. Meg Archer has returned to her childhood home, only to find Black Water Island is facing threat not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal cannot ignore their attraction but can they face their darkest fears and save the island from disaster?

A story of an ancient curse, centuries old secret and yes… potentially a forbidden love!!

Rachael had not intended to write another series when she started writing “The Rift” so it should be a stand alone, however, Rachael says never say never because when you read “The Rift” there could be potential for more… I guess we will have to find out!! On the cover of “The Rift” you will see a raven and yes I asked, and yes the raven is key to the story!! Interestingly, when asked about why she chose this particular theme for writing this book, Rachael said the story chose her. Although Rachael had always intended to have a female protagonist, Rachael initially intended to write this story about 2 characters running away – but she could not justify what they were running from and so changed the shape of the story to what’s in “The Rift” now. Written in third person, this is a shared character story between a boy and a girl which is unusual for Rachael as she normally struggles with reading shared character perspectives.

It was so much fun to get to know Rachael, she is so lovely and very easy to talk to and I am really hoping she will visit Sydney, Australia – hopefully in time for her book launch! In addition to talking about “The Rift” I had some burning questions answered. Yes! Rachael lives in New Zealand but no, she has not experienced the exhilaration of bungee jumping… yet… Rachael’s ultimate holiday destination would be Istanbul, Turkey or Prague or somewhere medieval but if she is in the mood for simple relaxation, a tropical getaway would be in order. Her favourite food is Mexican and when Rachael isn’t reading or writing, she loves to binge on Netflix. Most recently she loved watching ‘The Path’ and ‘Vikings’ and I am most excited to say I have convinced Rachael to now start bingeing on my favourite TV show: Grimm!!! Jumanji, Black Panther and Infinity War are listed as her favourite movies of 2018.

Special thanks again to Walker Books Publishers for giving me the opportunity to have this video call with Rachael Craw and of course special thanks to Rachael for her time on a Sunday afternoon, it really was an exciting and fun experience…

Now… to read “The Rift”!!! So watch this space for my review!!!

For further info on Rachael Craw: https://rachaelcraw.com/

-Annie

Advertisements

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

A story of obsession and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness and the devastating result of a exposed secret – a story that follows 4 Y.A obsessed friends who befriend their favourite Y.A author…….

The Characters we follow: Miri, Soleil, Penny and Jonah are obsessed with Y.A author, Fatima Ro who is the author of a book called ‘Undertow’. As Fatima is in town for a signing, these 4 teens have the ultimate chance to meet Fatima and suddenly find themselves friends with her an learning the art of ‘human connection’. As friendship progresses, trust is built and each person finds themselves divulging deep dark secrets about themselves.. As a result, Fatima has written another book – a book that features each character and the secrets they divulged!!

This book was an addictive jig-saw puzzle like no other and very true to its time with teen excessive use of social media and technology. The book was structured in a very unique way that makes it an incredibly fast paced read and  each phase of the story just added another piece of this unravelling jigsaw puzzle. I enjoyed how it’s part interview, part book within a book and it pieces together what really happened to the characters that are used in theunderlying story that prevails throughout this book. There are some dark themes covered in this book that does make you feel for the characters. I also found it interesting how each character responded and dealt with this new book their idol had written after forming what they felt to be a strong friendship they formed with their favourite author.

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Annie

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

Whisper by Lynette Noni

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me.

“I believed them. That was my mistake… There isn’t anyone else in the world like me… I’m different. I’m an anomaly, I’m a monster…”

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six-Eight-Four a.k.a ‘Jane Doe’ has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word…

Imagine if you had an ability (or curse) where every time you spoke, something bad happens? Meet Jane Doe.. she has been locked up in a secret security facility for about 2 years and hasn’t spoken a word at all.. Why is she there? What is this all about? What has she done?

What I found with this book and what I liked most was different it was from the author’s previous works – the author really set this book apart from the Medoran Chronicles as it’s really quite a unique concept. Even with a detailed beginning, I came to know the characters pretty quickly and modest plot development kept me turning the page. Although my head was filled with so many unanswered questions, I also enjoyed some nice surprises along the way!! It really does keep you guessing and that’s what I enjoyed about this book.

I would say if you enjoyed Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi or Everlife by Gena Showalter, you may enjoy this one. Special thanks to Pantera Press for sending me a review copy of this book.

Keep an eye out at your local bookstores – this awesome book will be hitting the shelves very soon!!!
-Annie

 I was biting my lower lip while I was finishing Whisper on the train, so I wouldn’t squeal, curse (under my breath) or start muttering to myself (No don’t go down there…). I couldn’t believe that I left Whisper at work over the weekend (sniffles, wipes away a tear).

My hands are itching for the second book. There is a second book, right?????

Whisper reminds the reader that words have power. Words are used for comments, expressions, malice intentions, and healing. Just to mention what can happen with a few well placed words…
-Meredith