This was a book that lured me in and slowly seduced me with its intricate world building and immersive story line.
When a person in an honourable position suddenly dies under suspicious circumstances, you have 2 options – have an open investigation or engage in a covert operation to determine whether or not it was sinister.. Oh.. and you have one clue: poison.
A story of treachery and intrigue that is told in 2 perspectives; a reliable poison proofer and an unreliable understudy. Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. Jovan’s sister Kalina is the understudy. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry…
Besides the slowly developing story line and trying to determine “who done it” what I enjoyed the most was the imaginative composition of poisons we learn about in each description that started each chapter…
With a steady pace and development, this is a book that is recommended to those who love fantasy fiction and intricate world building.
An epic combination of mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that captivates you from page one and hooks you to the final page!!!
Our protagonist is Hayden, a young girl who has tried to put her past behind her. She’s living in Brooklyn with her best friend, Del and preparing for her future however on her 18th birthday she inherits her childhood home, The Manor, based in Colorado on the condition that she uncovers its dark secrets. Hayden’s inheritance has opened Pandora’s box as her past has suddenly caught up with her, especially when she goes back to her roots…
I first heard about this book when Publishing House Allen and Unwin hosted their YA Fan Fest and to my delight, I won a copy after participating in one of their activities on stage!! For this, I am forever grateful as this was one creepily, exciting book!!! Where to start? Yes I really enjoyed this book.. What I enjoyed most was the element of mystery that teased me throughout the story – from the beginning I knew and understood that Hayden, was given a task to unlock a dark secret – but what was that secret!? Was it real or a fantasy?? What really happened to Hayden’s mother?? The closer we got to the truth, the creepier the story got – parts of the story even gave me goosebumps (no spoilers – The Manor) I also loved Hayden’s father – a disgraced physicist – who was a mystery himself with his theories we get to read in several of his journal extracts that surfaced throughout the book. Each entry started piecing more jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Even with that underlying mystery, I found the plot to be fast paced and very cleverly written. The author did a great job with starting chapters with text book explanations on various topics like physics for example and it lead us to the next part of the story. The friendship between Hayden and her bestie, Del, would appear to be the most unlikely yet they fit together like a glove and their constant banter made me laugh a lot so I guess it’s true, opposites do attract!!
This is a great debut novel and I recommend this to readers who enjoy a creepy YA fantasy fiction story.. It’s epic!!! Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book.
Special feature – blog post by author Katya de Becerra
Setting the Scene: Writing Places into Books and Books into Place
I first read The Catcher in the Rye when I was about thirteen. Though I didn’t get to see New York with my own eyes until many years later, Salinger’s version of the city as seen through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, enthralled me well into my adulthood. Even when I got to visit New York at last, my firsthand impressions of it were tinged by my long-ago memories of first exploring the city on The Catcher’s pages.
As I’ve read more, it became obvious to me that regardless of whether a story is set in a real or fictional place, its setting is as important as the novel’s plot or characters’ development. Sometimes, the aftertaste of a written place stays with you longer than the story itself.
Looking back at how those early literary experiences from my childhood shaped me as a writer today, I can testify that The Catcher’s version of NYC has definitely burrowed itself so deep into my psyche that when I first started drafting what was to become my debut novel, What The Woods Keep, the setting my mind first conjured was, unsurprisingly, New York. Though, as my work progressed and the book’s protagonist, Hayden, revealed herself to me slowly and layer by layer, I understood one of the first key things about this strange story of missing mothers and crackpot scientist fathers I was writing: Hayden was not a native New Yorker. She was a transplant. And while she was well-adjusted to city life, originally she was from elsewhere. More so, she was hiding something, and her New York life was her armour, protecting her from the ghosts of her strange childhood.
But where did she come from? It was the process of answering this question that became crucial to Hayden’s development as the book’s lead character and narrator. The more I fleshed out her place of birth, a fictional town of Promise located in the middle of Colorado woods, the more I fleshed out Hayden herself. For it is in Promise that Hayden’s core was formed once upon a time, long before she came to New York. In its essence, What The Woods Keep is a story of one strange girl’s quest to unearth the truth about her mother’s decade-old disappearance. When Hayden returns to Promise, her faded memories of some disturbing happenings she’s witnessed in the local woods as a child, her dark dreams, and all these things she believes her mind surely made up begin to clash with the atmospheric reality of Promise, eventually spilling into her wakeful world. That moment when the town finally aligns with Hayden’s viewpoint and highjacks her perception was among most thrilling for me to write.
Books settings can profoundly affect us, shape our vision of places we’ve never visited, direct our reading choices and influence our travel aspirations. Just like The Catcher in the Rye was the key catalyst for my long-lasting obsession with New York, I hope that Promise from What The Woods Keep takes hold of my readers’ imagination. I hope that my readers feel the whisper of the woods on their skin and shiver. I hope that Promise, with all its moodiness, its rain and wind, and its unsettling secrets inspires readers to immerse themselves in books and explore places, real or imaginary.
Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book and for having author Katya, share her blog piece with us.
Indeed this is one unforgettable blockbuster adventure that is one of the best adventures I have read this year. I could really see this book being adapted to film!!!
Our protagonist is Jane Doe, a 14 year old girl who is burdened with a reputation she doesn’t understand, feared by residents of the island of Bluehaven for reasons she doesn’t know, denied basic right of education and was forced to live in a Basement and provide full time care for her ill father who appears to know more than he is letting on. One fateful day, a terrifying earthquake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven and Jane’s father disappears. Without warning or prep, Jane finds herself catapulted into a dangerous quest with the most unlikely of alliances – a pyromaniac, Violet and trickster, Hickory accompanying her to rescue her father who is lost and trapped between worlds – a space of shifting rooms, booby traps and secret gateways.
From the first page, right to the very end, this book was full of nothing but page turning, action packed adventure!! Something was always happening on every chapter – it was never a dull moment. What I also enjoyed were the mysteries that were within the underlying story. I also enjoyed the biggest mystery of all that did leave me gaping in the end who is Jane Doe? where did she come from? why is she here? why do people fear her? At only 14 years old how could all this happen to her? As a character, I admired that even though she was vulnerable, Jane still had the courage and determination to find the truth that will ultimately set her free during this life threatening quest. Throughout the book I read and loved how the plot had elements of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and to my delight, elements of my all time favourite TV show Grimm (yes Grimm – think keys).
I would recommend this readers from aged 10+ as some scenes may frighten younger readers. I would also recommend this book to those who, like me, read and loved Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend. The action pace, the mystery, the intrigue, the magic and the wonder that holds you captive right to the very end that will leave you gaping and wanting to know more.. Yes this book just came out and I need the sequel sooner rather than later!!
Special thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for sending me a review copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!
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.
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.
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!!!
“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!!!
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…