Found by Fleur Ferris

Elizabeth (Beth) Miller is a 17 year old who has lived in the small rural town of Deni her entire life. Just an ordinary girl who just wants to enjoy life, hang out with friends and probably would complain about school, her biggest problem is telling her over protective and fiercely private father that she now has a boyfriend – Jonah. But on the very day Beth is about to bite the bullet and tell her father about Jonah, her father disappears before her without explanation. In a heartbeat, Beth’s life is under threat and turned upside down as she discovers she wasn’t who she thought she was and life in Deni isn’t so simple anymore….

I cannot believe I read this in ONE sitting!!! Once again, Fleur Ferris dazzled me with an engrossing and intense YA thriller!!! A great story with an underlying message that yes the past CAN and WILL catch up with you. Set in a small town, this story is told in a dual perspective following Beth and Jonah. Multi perspective reads can suffer when characters cannot be easily differentiated however in this book, it was very easy to tell them apart, their voices and character were well defined and the story was very easy to follow.  Action packed, fast paced, intense, chilling (at times) even heartbreaking. The ongoing mystery kept me in suspense and I really couldn’t put the book down. When I finally got my answers, my response was an ‘ahh! no way!’. (yes.. out loud in my living room). I also enjoyed how the story kept it real: both characters were thrown into situations where they had to be strong to survive and also deal with the reality of the situation but they were also vulnerable at the same time which makes them human. The moments when both Beth and Jonah were trying to collect their thoughts really put me in their minds as such, I came to care about these characters a lot. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy suspenseful YA thrillers. Great read!

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

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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

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

Snow, Fire, Sword by Sophie Masson

An amazing YA urban fantasy that is set on the backdrop of mythological Indonesia!!! A race against time to the very heart of an explosive secret… the truth about Snow, Fire and Sword. Dewi has never ventured beyond her village in the highlands of Jayangan, where she lives a comfortable life with her father, the respected village healer. But one day while working in the rice fields, she stumbles across Adi, an apprentice sword-maker, alone and hiding from the bloodthirsty bandits who kidnapped his beloved master.

When Dewi’s father also goes missing, she seeks the advice of the powerful tiger-people who watch over her village, but even they can see only so far through the cloud of sorcery that hangs over the kingdom. They leave her with a cryptic message: she and Adi must discover the true meaning of Snow, Fire and Sword before they can find her father and the other missing elders and reveal the truth about the danger that threatens Jayangan.

I had such a personal connection to this book as it was the very first time I managed to find a YA urban fantasy that was set on the backdrop of mythological Indonesia!!! It was the first time I was able to share a book with my Mum as we were able to discuss all the West Javanese legends contained throughout this story. I loved this book so much, I really took my time to read it so I was able to saviour it for as long as I could. A lot of the terminology used, I was able to understand first go but I thought it was fantastic that a glossary was included at the end of this book for the non-Indonesian speaking readers. The story moved at a reasonably quick pace, it allowed me to picture a whole new world that was inspired by true Indonesian landscape – I was able to picture the characters and the traditional Indonesian attire they were wearing so clearly. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy urban fantasies with reference to cultural legends – please note I had to get this book via Print on Demand. I’m so grateful to have this book on my shelf as it was such an immersive read, it is definitely a favourite!!!

-Annie

The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford – Summer Reading Blog Tour

Firstly I would like to give my special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for selecting me to be part of this Summer Reading Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.

Sadly, when I came on board, my excitement was rattled as a controversial issue came to light regarding the author of this book. Whilst I do not support any level of bad form anywhere, in any community, I would like to state my posting here does not endorse or reject the issue that came to light. As I was not directly involved in the incident that occurred, I cannot make comment on the matter other than I sincerely hope both parties are able to reach a mutual resolution amicably and I send my best to both of them.

The Harper Effect
I am a fan of the Young Adult genre and as an adult reading this book, I didn’t mind the story line as it was interesting to experience the life of a young tennis player who was dumped by her coach and is trying to deal with this and life in general. I agree, the character can be unlikeable with such problematic behaviour demonstrated throughout the book. However, the way I saw this character, it felt like reading about child stars. It doesn’t excuse the behaviour but it could explain it to a degree. Some say child stars who engage in reprehensible behaviour aren’t always held accountable as they may not have the maturity or capacity to understand or self-reflect due to the pressure to be perfection. Personally, I can see the book going 2 ways. I can see a contemporary young adult reader enjoy the story, especially with the sporty/tennis elements illustrated throughout the book that you would not often see and I can also see the reader having issue with the character herself.

As far as a recommendation goes – I would recommend anyone who has heard about this book simply to read it for themselves to form their own opinion on the book as I normally do with books I hear about.
-Annie

Q&A with author, Taryn Bashford on 23 December 2017 as part of the Summer Reading Blog Tour

 Is “The Harper Effect” is this your debut novel? Tell us what you have written/published to date.
Yes, The Harper Effect is my debut novel. That’s not to say there aren’t a fair few unpublished ones keeping each other company in a trunk in the attic!

What was your inspiration to write “The Harper Effect” and how did you come up with the characters in your story?
The Harper Effect has been through quite a transformation because it began as a middle grade novel when I first wrote it at the age of 14. At the time, my brother was entering the professional tennis world, while I was training for the Olympics track events. Sport was and still is a big part of my life, so it was only natural that ‘GAME FACE’ as it was once called, was pulled out of said trunk. I already had Aria and Harper in the original story, although back then they were twins! The feedback I got from publishers was that the market was over twins, and so they became sisters instead. I added Jacob and Colt because having read about a hundred YA novels by that stage, I knew I needed a love interest, and a bit of guy conflict is always good. They both came to me quickly and strongly, and sort of wrote themselves into the story.

There appears to be a tennis theme in “The Harper Effect” I am wondering if you a sports fan or player yourself? Is tennis your favourite sport?
My brother is the tennis nut. He played professionally and then became a coach, working with amazing players like Amelie Mauresmo, Michael Chang and Marcos Baghdatis. As an adult I’m very interested in exploring teens who surpass the norm – not just in sport but in any aspect of life. I’m keen to explore what it takes, why they are able to achieve such amazing things, and then to also reveal that they still have flaws, like any average person. I think that makes them more real, and it makes teens wanting to achieve great things feel like it’s a possibility – that anyone can achieve their dreams.

As you were writing this story, what was the best piece of advice you were given that you would pass on to aspiring writers?
To write every day. Even if it’s just for an hour. It keeps you connected to the story and the characters, and it helps you stay in control of all the threads that you’re weaving. I also find that it’s easier to stay immersed in the story world, and that means it becomes so real to you that the characters begin to tell you what story to write.

If you had to choose winter by the fireplace or summer by the beach to read your favourite book, where would you choose?
Definitely winter by the fireplace. When I’m at the beach I like to swim and rock climb and hunt for crabs.

Where is your favourite place to eat?
Italy!

Do you have any book signing tour plans or scheduled appearances in Australia?
I have an exciting event planned for the 18th January at Annie’s Books in Peregian Beach, QLD. As I’m promoting #GirlsInSport, I have a panel of elite athletes coming to the book launch to reveal how they got into the sport they love and what it takes to reach the levels they have. The panel includes Queensland’s 18 & Under Captain and one of our sprint hopefuls who’s been selected for the Commonwealth Games nomination event. I hope that The Harper Effect will provide sporty and confident role models for our teens, and I hope that the story inspires girls to stay in sport and to dream big.

How can readers get connected with you?
I think I’ve covered most bases with this list 😊
Website: www.tarynbashford.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TarynBashford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009813250572
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarynbashford/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32941900-the-harper-effect
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs7zV9t8YPY

Scales of Empire by Kylie Chan

This is an exciting new adventure filled with diverse characters, strong heroes and heroines and wild creatures!!!

Scales of Empire follows the story of Corporal Jian Choumaliis who on the mission of her life time as security officer/soldier on one of Earth’s huge generation ships, fleeing Earth’s failing ecosystem to colonise a distant planet. The ship encounters a technologically and culturally advanced alien empire that is led by a royal family of dragons. The empire’s dragon emissary offers her aid to the people of Earth, bringing greater health, longer life, and faster-than-light travel to nearby stars. But what price will the people of Earth have to pay for the generous alien assistance?

Firstly, I want to advise all Kylie Chan’s fan base to take their minds away from her previous works in the White Tiger series as this is a completely different to the series. Go into this as a whole new world – an epic intergalatic adventure set at a time when Earth is facing their downfall and soldiers are sent out to space to colonise other planets in order to save humanity. The first installment of a new series, I find this to be very promising and a series worth investing in. It is a story full of action, drama and suspense and takes a unique step with such diverse characters that include dragons and special talents that can either make or break humanity. I found this to be a lot of fun to read and mildly paced so I was able to enjoy the world building and character profiling but was kept on the edge of my seat with action and plot twists. Scales of Empire really took me out of this world – into another realm of Kylie Chan’s imagination and talent and I enjoyed it as much as I did the White Tiger series. I am really looking forward to reading what happens next…

Special thanks to both author Kylie Chan and Harper Voyager Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review. Keep reading for the blog exclusive with author, Kylie Chan!!!

“Scales of Empire” is very different to your previous published works – could you please briefly tell us how different this story is compared to your previous work? (Spoiler free of course)
It’s a major departure from the Chinese martial arts and gods-and-monsters of the Dark Heavens series. This is hard science-fiction – with a Kylie Chan twist – and it’s set in the future. There aren’t any mythological creatures involved although I do have dragons – as aliens that have been visiting Earth for eons. It’s a space opera with multiple species of aliens, inter-planetary political machinations, and a lot of fun exploration of the nature of species and how they would relate to each other in an interstellar setting.

What was the inspiration to write “Scales of Empire” and how many are we expecting in this new series and when can we expect the next instalment?
All the ideas have been swimming around in my head for years. This will be three books, and I’ve mapped out the second and know exactly where it and the third one are going.  I can’t believe you are asking for the next one before the first one is even released! The first book – ‘Scales of Empire’ – will be out in February of 2018.

The world building is quite unique and the characters are quite diverse in this story, what sort of research went into your world building and how did you come up with the characters/how they develop throughout the story?
As usual I’ve done a vast amount of research. Global warming and its aftermath are a big issue for the population of Earth, and I had to investigate colony ships – how many people do you need for a viable population? – and the nature of warp drives and interstellar travel. If you can’t communicate over Star Trek’s beloved ‘subspace’ instantaneously – how do you communicate when messages travelling, even at the speed of light, will take hundreds of years? Closer to home, I’ve drawn from people I know (in poly relationships) and people I’m close to (who are bi, or of mixed race) to create characters that are deeper and more complex than the standard ‘space marine’ trope.

If your book was ever turned into a movie or a TV series, can you think of who you would want to cast as the characters of your story?
I don’t usually attempt to ‘cast’ my story because I know that casting is way more complicated than that – but what I do is to visualise what someone looks like while I’m writing the book. It will sometimes ping when I see them on the screen. For Jian, I see her looking very much like Sonequa Martin-Green, the lead of Star Trek: Discovery. She has that same no-nonsense attitude. For Richard, I haven’t seen anyone recently that pinged the visual for me. And of course the dragons could be played by anyone!

How did you structure your story? Did you target a certain amount of words per day or use post it notes or info dump in a journal during your writing purpose?
I try to write a certain number of words every day, I do have a word target. And I have found that agonising about not reaching that target is pretty much a sure-fire way to ensure that I don’t. I carry a notebook everywhere with me and have a laptop beside the bed – I write a lot of my stuff when I’m half-asleep. I structure the story in my head: I know the outline of it, and how it will look in a general sense. The details come to me and it’s like filling in a sketch. Sometimes the images that fill the sketch are entirely unexpected and then I know the end result will be good.

When you’re not writing or reading, what would you be doing?
I’m at the beach! I just moved to the Gold Coast and it is wonderful. The artist definitely produces more words when immersed in salt water.

-Review and Q&A by Annie