Convergence by Marita Smith

An ancient secret… A genetic key… A planet in peril…

For scientist Robyn Greene, her laboratory is a second home. Here she searches for the ancient gene that is supposed to enable humans to communicate with animals. After years of failure, she’s beginning to wonder if the gene is a myth. But when she stumbles across a strange genetic mutation, Robyn’s world turns upside down. In a race against time, Robyn must track down the individuals with this rare gene before the wrong people seize control as this ancient cycle is designed to keep the Earth in balance – in the wrong hands, it could be chaos.

I really enjoyed this book as I found it brought science/chemistry to life in the form of fantasy fiction but I wouldn’t call it Sci-Fi as it appears to be more than that (well to me anyway). This isn’t like anything I have read before. The premise and plot twists were so cleverly executed throughout this book and I found the characters interesting. What was also interesting was how I found myself anxiously following the plot to determine what happens next and in between the story, we learn about well-defined characters and their own inner struggles which did have a relevance to the storyline. Great world building and character development, the story moved along at a brisk pace and the structure kept me turning the page to the end.

A story about an ancient secret, a genetic key, betrayal and paradigm shifting discovery that could either make or break this world.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Fantasy – especially those who are seeking a unique read.

Special thanks to Harbour Publishing House for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

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The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Two boys.. Two secrets..

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long

The writing style and characters in this book were both engaging. I found myself flying through the pages and getting lost in the story. It’s written in such a way that I deeply cared for many of the characters and cried a few times. The characters felt authentic and the story is full of heart.

Representation is important. I’m so happy to have read a book that is so rich and is a high quality YA novel.

-Amanda

And I Darken by Kiersten White

This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed from page 1. The plot was so intriguing and although this is an alternative history story, I can see the immense research the author put into this book.

Taking us back to the era of the Ottoman Empire, this book follows a female protagonist one may consider cruel and brutal, though if you were a Princess who was abandoned by their father to be raised in Ottoman Sultan’s courts and living in a world where women did not have rights, I guess I can understand Lada Dragwyla’s character. Ruthlessness is her key to survival, especially when her lineage has made her and her brother targets in this cruel world.

As the story progresses, Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and her brother Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes!!! The characters were so well defined which made the story so great. Lada was the ruthless one, Radu is struggling to be true to himself and Mehmed is the misunderstood son of the Sultan that Lada plans to seek vengeance on.

Personally, I found the plot intriguing even the strain between Radu, Lada and Mehmed wasn’t cliché, it was interesting given the year and time it was set in. I found the alternative history setting very thorough and I was especially excited to see accurate Islamic representation in this book through the dialogue as the characters discussed the 5 pillars of Islam, prayers and even the Umrah/Hajj pilgrimage!! This is the first of an epic trilogy and I am really excited to read the sequel, “Now I Rise” as soon as possible.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can’t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck. The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything but she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. On a random day, Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate and her first crush. It wasn’t enough Jonah pick pockets her, he also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love

This book was interesting. I feel the author has grown since her first novel as like everything else, practice and experience makes perfect. This was a great mix of serious and quirky! The author did very well in writing a novel that confused me in the beginning (lol but in a good way) as I wasn’t sure whether this was a Contemporary YA novel or a Fantasy YA novel but turns out it’s a funky, quirky, contemporary novel that has a uniquely clever way of telling an important story. At the end of reading this novel I read the reviews and it was it was interesting to see how one particular reader interpreted the ‘fantasy element’ as potentially the protagonist’s overactive imagination – I guess I will have to let you as the reader decide. The way the story was told made me feel the author had very important issues she really wanted to raise awareness about but through a story that did not making the reader feel so overwhelmed or heavy hearted in the end. The pace of this book was stable from beginning to end – it wasn’t full action packed or info dumped, it just travelled along nicely but as you continue reading the deep, important issues arise. Issues such as mental illness, facing your fears and even self-harm are covered in this book which, in this day in age I felt to be very important for teens to read. The author really did well in using metaphors to describe these facets which made it all so real, even gave me a better understanding as I know people who suffer anxiety and depression – it painted a clearer picture. I have to say I did enjoy this book, I found it to be a clever story with funny dialogue but a frightening storyline. I believe this is more suitable to older teens and adults.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Due for release: end of August 2017
-Annie

The Things We Promise by J.C Burke

Powerful and an Absolute Tear Jerker

Book Summary
Gemma has been planning her formal from day one and all she cared about is looking great and hoping to catch the attention of the boy she liked. Her brother Billy, who is a renowned make up artist in New York had promised her that he will return home to do her make up for the formal. However nothing is what it seems and Gemma soon discovers the secret that her mum is hiding. Gemma learns about the deadly AIDS epidemic sweeping the world causing fear and intolerance. Gemma realises that her world is changing and it’s not as rose-tinted like before, she learns and navigates through her new experiences; new friendships were forged and old ones broken. “The Things We Promise” is a moving and heartbreaking story that tugs your heart strings.

The Reviews
This book is powerful and an absolute tear jerker, it’s a reminder of a not-so-long ago period where there’s a lot of discrimination and ignorance about AIDS and HIV. I happen to remember these times and it was horrific, the discrimination and isolation the sufferers have to endure is unimaginable. I felt the book was authentic to the times and the setting. It was a confronting time for many families. I liked the exploration of character growth, and the strength of love, family and friendship contrasting against a horrifying disease, and a divisive, ignorant and intolerant society. It was well written and an essential read so we can continue to improve as a diverse and loving society.
-NJ

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The Things We Promise is an impactful read. Set in Sydney, during 1990, this story highlights the AIDS epidemic. The story is from the perspective of a teenage girl and follows her in the lead up to her school formal. The countdown to the formal is Intertwined with her relationships with her friends and family. This includes her relationship with her brother and his partner. As history shows, this was a horrifying time for the LGBT+ community. This community faced discrimination at a time where AIDS was killing off entire friendship groups. I have seen that some other reviewers have had issues with the homophobic language in this book. This is a good thing. We should absolutely be horrified and offended by the derogatory language used by characters to describe LGBT+ characters in this book. We should be horrified because this happened. It is still happening. If the book didn’t use this kind of language it would be doing a disservice as it would downplay the discrimination of that time. I certainly remember hearing that kind of language in the late 90s. I imagine it was worse in 1990 when AIDS was on everyone’s mind. We should be offended by derogatory slurs. But at the same time it is important to not censor the past. Rather we should use this as a tool for discussion. Due to the topics discussed in this book it is not an easy read. It is painful to read about a time when a lot of people died and to learn about the hardships that these characters  faced. However, this story highlights a period of time that isn’t covered enough in literature. Especially in YA. The Things We Promise tells a story that shows how far we have come and still how far we have to go for true equality. It highlights the horrors of a disease which has killed millions of people worldwide. I think that it’s important that people read more books like The Things We Promise. So that we don’t forget the horrors of that time.
-Amanda

Curio Boutque special: designer swag inspired by the book

Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Publishers for sending us Review Copies in exchange for our honest review.

Kidz Korner Round Up – School Holidays Special

The kids are on holidays in Sydney, NSW.. here is a round up of recommended books the kids can immerse themselves in these school holidays!!!


Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Divya Srinivasan

An exquisite hardcover picture book that would now be considered a collector’s item that tells a beautiful tale about a princess called Cinnamon whose eyes are made of pearls – in other words, she is blind.. and for reasons unknown to her parents, she refuses to speak. After futile attempts to find someone to make Cinnamon talk, suddenly a mighty tiger appears at their palace to teach Cinnamon to talk.. the illustrations and art in this book are so beautiful and bode so well with this mighty tale.. Suitable for family reading time to children from 5 years Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Hotaka (Through my eyes, Natural Disaster Zones) by John Heffernan
This was an interesting book that’s told in the perspective of a 10 year old child whose life is turned upside down in light of a natural disaster. The way the story starts is so real, this child is simply enjoying his friend’s pantomime like it’s just “a normal day” and suddenly the town is on alert and from a hill top, he sees the water drawing out in prep of a tsunami that is about to hit, something he has learnt from class and his own family. My family are originally from Aceh and endured the effects of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 so this story was real for me. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I feel this is a good learning experience for children. I say this suitable and recommended to junior non fiction readers aged from 9 years and above.. Many thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Jamal

Rock pool secrets by Narelle Oliver
At first glance there’s nothing much to see. But the rock pools are full of secrets. Nestling in crevices … hiding in the seaweed … camouflaged against the rocks … What creatures will you find? An interesting and fun read. This book shows you what you can find in rock pools during low tide at beaches. As you read this picture book there are flip sections on a few of the pictures where you can get a better look at the creatures that live in the rock pools. The pictures are beautifully done. Suitable to a younger audience from pre-school to primary school. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Where’s Wally? 30th Anniversary Edition by Martin Handford
As a kid, I always loved the Where’s Wally? books and the various editions that were published. I bet kids today could still appreciate the hours of fun they can have with this one! This book celebrates 30 years of searching for Wally, a one off special edition of the original eye boggling classic. It’s an awesome special edition with bonus scenes and characters – it makes you determined to find him each time you find a false lead. In this edition you can hike around the world, on the beach, at the train station and you can even find Wally on a new wander in town again. Intricately detailed scenes and artistry here, I highly recommend it as a fun activity – you could even play teams – these school holidays!
-Annie

Poor Louie by Tony Fucille
Louie’s life is great! A walk on the leash every morning, ice cream on Sundays, snuggling in bed at night with Mom and Dad. Even the playdates with Mom’s friends despite their little crawling creatures who pull Louie’s ears aren’t all that bad. But then things get weird… This story had me smiling from the beginning. Because Louie doesn’t know how to handle the new member of the family, that’s coming in nine months… I’ll be re-reading this one for long while. I now want a dog like Louie!! Highly recommended children’s picture book. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, Illustrated by Patrick Benson
A beautiful story that is artistically illustrated of three baby owls who wake up one night in their tree to find that their mother has gone, so they sit on the branch and wait, wondering when she will return. It’s such a cute and lovely story – heart warming and very suitable to read to kids aged 3+. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Read3r’z Re-Vu: Eid Special

EID MUBARAK!!! 1 SYAWWAL 1438H

Muslims around the world have just completed their fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan and have immersed themselves in some wonderful celebrations for Eid (Idul Fitri).

As part of the festivities, this blog post is a celebration and recommendation of some of the awesome books I have read that were written by Muslim authors…

Some you may have already seen before…

Have you ever worked with a Muslim colleague or have a Muslim friend who has declined invites to lunch or even social gatherings after work or school during a certain time of the year? They suddenly go missing from the social sphere or they disappear for a power nap during lunch?  It’s certainly not to cause any offence or to avoid anyone, it’s because they are embracing the Holy Month of Ramadan.

So.. What is Ramadan and What is Eid?
Muslims follow the lunar calendar where the phases of the moon are followed closely and upon the citation of a new moon, a new month commences. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, depending on the citation of the new moon it can go for anywhere between 28-30 days. It is a holy month for Muslims as Muslims believe it is when Prophet Muhammad received the divine revelation of the Holy Quran, Islam and the message of One God.

As part of the holy month, Muslims engage in a fast during sunlight hours. The fast is a means of bringing them closer to God, humble themselves as a person and a reminder of those who are less fortunate. During Ramadan, Muslims are either fasting or praying… or sleeping… When it’s time to break the fast (Iftar) it is most likely with family as Ramadan is the time for family then afterwards, they go to their nearest mosque for prayers which go for most of the night. Time is quite consumed with the fasting and prayers during the Holy Month. With it, the fast can get quite exhausting but not from the lack of food and water consumption. Sahur (breakfast) is at approx. 4:30am to eat in time before Fajr (morning prayers) by 5:20am – then it’s off to work or school so when it’s downtime – it’s usually for rest.

The fast is only prescribed to Muslims who are fit and able to engage in the fast – so if a Muslim is sick or has a medical condition that requires regular medication or meals, they are exempt. Same applies to pregnant and lactating women. If one has commenced fasting then during the day has become ill, they are to break their fast immediately. For those who can’t fast, they usually pay a Fidyah (charity) that is paid to the needy and equates to what one normally spends on food in a day. General rule of thumb is approx. $10 per day for a meal.

Ramadan is a peaceful time of the year – it is a time for prayer, family and repentance. You could call it an annual spiritual and physical detox…

To mark the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate a religious holiday called Eid also known as Idul Fitri or Eid ul Fitr. It’s a time when Muslims wear new clothes and first attend prayers in the morning then make up for lost time by visiting friends or family from house to house and eat.. A LOT!!! It’s also a time for charity as a Fitrah (charity paid prior to Eid) that is paid to the poor. It’s also a day to remind Muslims to forgive their fellow Muslims for shortcomings and continue to carry on positive behaviour once they bid the Holy Month farewell.

Recommended reads by some awesome Muslim Authors

Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina an important Contemporary YA Novel that I see as the next “Looking for Alibrandi” and Noah’s Law a great Contemporary YA novel that has an element of crime mystery thriller…
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sami Shah’s Fire Boy and Earth Boy epic Urban Fantasy novels that reference the Islamic faith on Jinn.. has you on the edge of your seat!!!
 

Demet Divaroren’s Living on Hope Street – A raw and confronting yet fantastic YA read that’s set in “The Burbs”

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Light both intense YA page turners that had me on the edge of my seat.. A story that is set in a brutal world that is inspired by Ancient Rome and its ruthless way of ruling with an iron fist..
 

Wishing all our Muslim members a wonderful and blessed Eid Mubarak:
1 Syawwal 1438 H

-Annie