The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman Blog Tour

“Happiness, like hummingbirds, can land in your heart.”

Alba has been best friends with Levi since forever. They’re both obsessed with hummingbirds and spend their lunchtimes hiding out in the school library. Alba normally doesn’t mind that Levi’s got a science theory on just about everything. But when he becomes convinced the school librarian has discovered a wormhole in her office, Alba thinks maybe he’s gone too far.

Then there’s Cleo. That’s what Alba calls her left foot, which was twisted in the wrong direction at birth and has been strapped in a brace for most of Alba’s life. With the final cast about to come off, Alba is set on running in her first cross-country race. But what if Levi doesn’t believe she can do it?

Alba’s only ever wanted to be ‘normal’, so why does it feel like she’s losing more than Cleo and a pair of crutches?

Drawing from her own personal experience, the author has written a touching story of self-acceptance. Though a target audience of middle grade readers, this beautiful tale of courage can be enjoyed by readers young and old alike. Wonderful characters you come to care for and a lovely story-line that blends real life with a touch of sci-fi, overall it was an enjoyable and eye-opening story. With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + UQP Books for having me on board for the blog tour.

***LIVE VIDEO CHAT WITH MICHELLE KADAURUSMAN ON INSTAGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT***

Sunday 7 June 2020, 8:00am AEST/Saturday 6 June 2020, 6:00pm PDT – join Annie as she hosts a live video chat on the Read3r’z Re-Vu Instagram account with the author Michelle Kadarusman live from Toronto, Canada!!!
About The Author
Children’s author Michelle Kadarusman grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived many years throughout Indonesia and in Canada. Her children’s novels have been nominated for various awards and honours including the Canadian Governor General’s Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book List, the Freeman Book Award and the Malka Penn Book Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Her work is published internationally and has been translated to Spanish and Turkish.
Author Links
-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

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

I had the pleasure of reading an Advance Review Copy of this book followed by tuning in to a YA virtual panel that featured this lovely author. Upon reading this book then listening to the author’s inspirations for writing this book and her writing process, I was able to put it altogether and have a great appreciation for this story. Personally, I love reading fantasy fiction where the story line is derived from cultural legends and backgrounds and I believe this author executed this brilliantly in this story. This book is inspired by Nigerian legend and I have only started seeing Nigerian legends represented in fantasy recently which is amazing. I hope to see more – their culture and legends are fascinating to me. The world building of Aritsar was stable and steady to ease me into this complex world and story line from the beginning. Even from the first chapter, I felt enchanted and hooked to the end. I enjoyed Tarisai as a character too, there were times I admired her strength and I also really felt for the tribulations she was enduring.  This book had a bit of everything from steady world building, wonderful friendships, addictive plot, magic, adventure, suspense – even a hint of romance. It was a well rounded book and a fantastic debut.

Recommended to fans of stories with complex worlds and derived from cultural legends, particularly readers who have enjoyed YA books by Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir and adult books by S.K Chakraborty. With special thanks to The Nerd Daily for organising an ARC for me.
-Annie

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Release date: 7 July 2020
Publisher: Newsouth Books

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

I loved this book so much and feel very privileged to have read the ARC. There was so much depth, uncertainty, irrational feelings and sweet moments. All of the things that make up love in the real world. Love is terrifying and nobody is perfect which is why this book is extremely important. There were some heart breaking moments but the beautiful moments that followed helped me heal from what I previously read. Such a well rounded book, definitely a favourite of 2020 and I hope we see more of Oliver and Luc in the future.

With special thanks to Newsouth Books for an Advanced Reading Copy of this book.
-Tianna

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist 

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

This book was pitched to me as a Muslim ‘Pride and Prejudice’ retelling – naturally as a Muslim reader and blogger I was intrigued. From the moment I picked up this book, I was HOOKED! I could not put this down. There are so many great things I want to say about this book that I need a moment to collect my thoughts before writing my review. First of all, I want to thank the author for writing such an amazing book because it demonstrated so many things that happens around us that many seem to think is restricted to one particular faith or culture when it’s not. What was also intriguing is how the author referenced Islamic beliefs throughout the book and demonstrated the clash between culture and Islam which is what happens a lot today.

The author also did an amazing job in illustrating various ‘types’ of Muslims whom exist in our community – when I say types I mean.. Ayesha: the character I was able to relate to most, is educated, outspoken, independent but follows her faith and keeps Islam close to her heart, even wears the hijab. She loves poetry and wishes to pursue her career but still holds her family close and does not tend to conform to community expectations. I found her loyalty to family and those who take advantage of her easily was her flaw – for a smart woman she was easily taken advantage of by her own cousin from time to time but that’s what made Ayesha a strong character – whilst she had great qualities, she was still flawed Khalid on the other hand is more conservative with an ideology of arranged marriage and conforming to community expectations instilled in him. Both characters are Muslim yet very different from one another – the supporting characters we meet, Clara (Ayesha’s non-Muslim friend) and Amir (Khalid’s Muslim yet doesn’t practice the faith friend) demonstrated the diversity within friendships and again illustrated an honest picture among our society which is something I adored. I loved the characters in this book – even the horrible characters I wanted to slap! The author did an amazing job in bringing out well defined characters that caused me to have an emotional reaction with their every move.

When I first started reading this book, I was expecting just a romance story between an unlikely couple and whilst that is a foundation in this book, the story is much more intense and involved than a simple love story. The story was not simple – it was complex and intense, an amazing journey of change, harrowing backstories about the multiple characters we come to meet, discrimination and issues Muslims face today, betrayal and heartbreak with well balanced with humour. This incredibly well rounded book with fantastic characters, plot and my constant need to know “what happens next?” kept me enchanted on every page.

With special thanks to Allen and Unwin for sending me a review copy of this book.
-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). 

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

“The truth is found when men are free to pursue it – FDR…
The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it but there it is – WC…
Trust, but Verify – RR… Verify”

Imagine a world where paper no longer existed, where everything was run by tablets and words were erased from our world as deemed unnecessary and you were told to just trust what you have been told – any attempt to ‘verify’ could be identified as a rebellion.. Not that far from the real world hey! I thought this book was written very well, easy to follow and cleverly executed. The concept was unsettling but intriguing – what do you do in a world where you know better?

“Sometimes the most frightening leap is one we make in our own minds…”

Meri Beckley lives in a world without lies. When she turns on the news, she hears only the facts. When she swipes the pages of her online textbooks, she reads only the truth. When she looks at the peaceful Chicago streets, she feels the pride everyone in the country feels about the era of unprecedented hope and prosperity over which the government presides.

But when Meri’s mother is killed, Meri suddenly has questions that no one else seems to be asking. And when she tries to uncover her mother’s state of mind in her last weeks, she finds herself drawn into a secret world full of facts she’s never heard and a history she didn’t know existed.

Suddenly, Meri is faced with a choice between accepting the “truth” she has been taught or embracing a world the government doesn’t want anyone to see—a world where words have the power to change the course of a country, and the wrong word can get Meri killed

I enjoyed following Meri, she’s a strong character but not in a “bad ass” way – in dealing with the untimely loss of her mother and her alcoholic father she still finds the strength to carry on with her life and even take on challenges to find the truth in this world and her mother who was an artist painting a picture to expose the truth.. the mystery held my attention as did the characters we met along the way.

“Tablets are just as easy to write on and writing on paper is not only extravagant and unnecessary – it’s selfish”

A great book that demonstrates “words have power” with special thanks to Harper Collins Australia Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

“Your affinity does not define you… what defines you is how you choose to wield it…”

The first in a new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and a con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder…

“Blood Heir” is Amelie Wen Zhao’s debut and the first instalment in an epic new series that follows the story of Princess Anastacya Mikhailov of Cyrilia who has lived her life in safety, hidden behind palace walls. She is later framed for her father’s brutal murder and must leave behind everything she has ever known to find his killer and prove her innocence.

Alone, on the run, desperate and in danger, there is only one person who could help vindicate the princess. He is Ramson Quicktongue, a cunning, silver-tongued crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld. Though Ramson has sinister plans of his own, he may have met his match in Ana as the princess might just be the most dangerous player of them all.

This particular book was subject to controversy towards the end of 2018 as the author was slammed on Twitter for being offensive. The author was also subject to cyber bulling which led to a decision of retracting this book from publication. I read the blurb and the sample at the time and could not understand the controversy. I was elated, as were my friends, when I heard the book went ahead for publication and we were given the opportunity to be early readers as part of a blogger-buddy read along.

Starting this book on the first day of 2020 was the best start to the new year. “Blood Heir” was a fast paced and interesting read that I could not put down. I would rate this one of the best books we have read in some time. Personally, I felt this book sent me on a wild ride. From beginning to end I was quite impressed with the plot, characterisation and pacing not to mention the mystery surrounding Princess Anastacya’s plight and Ramson’s character. The story is full of twists and turns and is not afraid of being brutal and ripping apart this calm world. Whilst the inspiration of the Russian tale was there, I could see this book standing apart from the original tale.

I enjoyed both Ana and Ramson as characters and found them interesting as they formed an unlikely alliance but were worlds apart in their own minds. I couldn’t determine who to trust more as both blind sided me with their next moves as the story went on. I also really warmed up to the supporting character, May.

Now this book is finally in bookstores, I hope readers get a chance to sink their teeth into this one and enjoy it as much as I did and hopefully be their own judge for this story. Personally I really enjoyed it and I am trying to sit tight for the sequel.

With special thanks to Harper Voyager for sending me an early copy of “Blood Heir” and for supporting our blogger-buddy read along.

-Annie

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