You Must be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

“I am Layla, I am loud, I’m weird, random, funny, smart……. I’m my own person and I’ll always be Layla. Don’t you forget it.”

Layla’s mind goes a million miles a minute, so does her mouth – unfortunately her better judgement can take a while to catch up! Although she believes she was justified for doing what she did, a suspension certainly isn’t the way she would have wished to begin her time at her fancy new high school. Despite the setback, Layla’s determined to show everyone that she does deserve her scholarship and sets her sights on winning a big invention competition. But where to begin?

“With her long skirt and headscarf Layla certainly stands out at her new high school. Everyone thinks they know her, just from a glance. But do they? And does Layla really know herself?”

Looking outside and in, Layla will need to come to terms with who she is and who she wants to be if she has any chance of succeeding.

Layla’s story is a very important story and it was told in a very fun and engaging way. Layla’s flaws were what made her human and humans can only take so much in different situations – especially at such a young age of 12-13 in year 8. This story was important as it showed no bounds in exploring the social injustices that exist in our time from racism to Islamaphobia – how it can go from derogatory comments to violence even in the school yard.

This story was so engaging – although there was a time I wanted to throw this book at the wall because of the injustice Layla was facing, a lot of the story was vibrant and fun and a story you would read to cheer you up when you’re not having the best day.

I loved following Layla and how she deals with her own cultural identity being of Sudanese heritage practicing Islamic faith living in Australia to changing from a comfortable school environment to a prestigious school where she is different. The friendships she had previously and the new ones she makes were particularly fun to read – she is living proof that true friendship is unconditional.. and of course how could we forget her cute yet amazing invention!

As an adult reading this I enjoyed it so much so I recommend this to all readers even as young as 9-10 years. It brought back memories of junior high school for me though dialogue has changed a little from my generation – even the social media tech!

“Forgiveness liberates the soul and removes fear..” -Nelson Mandela

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book – please visit our Instagram Page: @read3rz_revu for the top ten ‘this or that’ video with author Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

-Annie

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Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories edited by Tobias Madden

Short tales from the Australian writers of tomorrow.

Featuring stories by Tobias Madden, Sofia Casanova, Cassi Dorian, Michael Earp, Jes Layton, Sophie L. McDonald, Stacey Malacari, Kaneana May, K.M Stamer-Squair, Sarah Taviani, Vivian Wei and Felicity Martin

#LoveOzYA celebrates the best of new Australian writing for teenage readers. It has grown from a humble hashtag into a movement, reflecting the important role young-adult fiction plays in shaping our current generation of readers. This anthology collects, for the first time, some of the tremendous work from the #LoveOzYA community.

Featuring a foreword by award-winning Australian novelist Fleur Ferris (Risk, Wreck, Black and Found), Underdog celebrates the diverse, dynamic and ever-changing nature of our nation’s culture. From queer teen romance to dystopian comedy, from hard-hitting realism to gritty allegory, this brilliant, engrossing and inspiring collection of short stories will resonate with any teen reader, proving, yet again, why there is just so much to love about #LoveOzYA

I was just so incredibly impressed by all the short stories debuted in this anthology!! Each were written so incredibly well, all of them so exciting and insightful to read and what really impressed me was how diverse this anthology is – no two stories are the same and you can really hear the voice and the passion speaking up through the pages by each contributing author. It was very difficult to choose a favourite as each was so unique I loved each story equally but for different reasons. I believe this book really needs to have a shining light on it and all Aussie readers need to pick this up. Huge congrats to all contributing authors in this book for making a debut with your short story! I’m so excited for this to hit the shelves soon! I really hope there are many more to come!

Special thanks to Tobias Madden (editor) and Underdog Books for sending me an advance review copy of this book and for having me on board to launch this book in March 2019.
-Annie

Kidz Korner Special: Junior Fiction Recommendations

This post is a special dedication for our young readers aged 8 years and up… The following have been read and enjoyed by young and old alike – we hope you will tap into these and enjoy them too…

(Please note some reviews have come from children – names not published to protect their privacy)

Lintang Series by Tamara Moss – Books 1 and 2.
 

This was interesting as it was the first time we saw Indonesian character names in a junior fiction novel. The first 2 books are full of adventure and I am invested in the series I want to read the 3rd one when I can. What I liked was there wasn’t a lot of dialogue but more story and adventure. Both books had a serious story but it was funny, it was a bit scary but kids won’t get nightmares which is great. Recommend this to adventure fans and school friends but beware of Malam Rasha Night Terrors (hehe). Special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending review copies of these books – was a lot of fun to read!!

Jake Atlas and the Hunt of the Feathered God by Rob Lloyd Jones

I really liked this book as it was adventurous and very fast paced. It was an exciting adventure as the characters had to find an ancient tomb in the hidden temple but the secret passage was supposed to stop them but the characters are too sly for the puzzles they are very clever. The story was very clever I liked the mystery and the problem solving. At times it made me confused but that’s what made it very cool. Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

Annie and Simon – Banana Muffins and Other Stories

A 3 in 1 book. This book really made me want to eat banana muffins but there wasn’t any!!!! The funniest part of this book was the Bobo – it’s a baby dummy (hehe) she tried to say everything but she said Simon and it came out Thymon Bobo, it was really cute and really funny. Special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy of this book, now I’m off to make banana muffins!

The Institute of Fantastical Inventions by Dave Leys

This was fantastic and awkward hahaha!!! I loved it, it was so much fun and I think all my friends should read this because it was really funny and very exciting. My favourite bit – they made a girl float because she wanted to float in a bubble but the bubble didn’t pop unless she was in a safe place – she took a pill, very much like Willy Wonka. I wont show this to my brother, he will want to try these inventions at home!! Special thanks to Harbour Publishing House for sending me a review copy of this book.

Polly and Buster Books 1 and 2 by Sally Rippin
Book 1: Polly and Buster, the Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster
Book 2: Polly and Buster, the Mystery of the Magic Stones

 

Who ever heard of a witch and a monster being friends? Everyone knows that witches don’t mix with monsters. Witches are educated, clever, sophisticated. But monsters? Monsters are just uncouth. Some are even dangerous. But Polly the witch and Buster the feelings monster have been best friends forever.  It’s the sort of friendship that makes your heart squeeze with happiness. Somehow, they’ve managed to keep their friendship a secret. Until one day, when everything changes… This was a great story about friendship, secrets and lies and I found the book to be daring and mystical – it was very cool because the adventures the two characters went on were dangerous. It’s a cool series. Special thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont Publishers for sending me the review copies of these books.

Blog post reviews compiled and published by Annie

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

“But even in difficult situations, especially in difficult situations, you can’t lose hope. Things change”

FANTASTIC BOOK!!! A story that had me hooked from the first page and I read it in a day..

Life is pretty ordinary for Amal and her village in Pakistan.. Amal is one of the select few girls who can read and write and has a love for poetry and she is busy pursuing her dream to be a teacher however her dreams are momentarily crushed when she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings as it is her duty as the eldest daughter. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope then the unthinkable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Although written for a middle grade audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this as an adult and believe other readers who dive into YA or MG would enjoy it just the same. With themes that cover gender equality, education and social justice, I truly believe this to be an important book for all readers. I love and adore our protagonist Amal and there were times I wished I could just hug her and commend her courage and strength. I really felt her pain and realised my own problems were so small compared to girls/women like Amal. Amal’s character, her journey and her story was so real, raw and honest. I felt her emotion, her confusion, her outrage even her tears whether happy or sad, she’s a character I really love. What resonated with me was the book’s underlying message – to never give up hope..

Honestly, this author Aisha is a true inspiration to me and I intend to continue to follow this path: “We don’t have to make headlines to help change the world for the better. Everything we do in our communities and beyond to impart good is important and matters.”

Special thanks to Text Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book – definitely one of my 2018 favourites!!
-Annie

Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life….

OK.. this book was epic!! Loved it from beginning to end!! I loved our protagonist: Emika (Emi) Chen… a teenage hacker who worked as a bounty hunter to track down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally… Warcross was an online, virtual reality game that took over the world and became a way of life.

I enjoyed Emi’s story – what her life was before she got to where she is now and particularly in the beginning, there was a lot of frustration she was feeling with her struggles. As a reader, you could feel her emotion and you were really with her when she was on her own trying to meet ends meet, plunging further and further into debt then her life suddenly changed… Being a bounty hunter was a competitive business, so in Emi’s desperate attempt to make quick money to pay immediate debts, she took a major risk by hacking into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships – the risk turned out to be life changing due to a glitch that exposed her to the world. As she was convinced this will result in incarceration, Emi was shocked to find that Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka calls her with a job proposition rather than an arrest warrant. From The U.S to Tokyo, overnight, Emi’s life will never be the same..

This book was such a page turner, I loved it from beginning to end. I loved Emi’s journey, her connection with Hideo Tanaka and the focus on the world building – imagine if VR/online gaming ruled the world? How far away are we from it now? What I also found very interesting was how this world that was owned by Henka Games and the elusive creator Hideo Tanaka even had legislation governing it!!! How it was unlawful to gamble on Warcross and bounty hunters are hired to detain hackers and illegal gamblers. I’m not much of a gamer myself but I really enjoyed this story and how it whisked me into such a unique world!!! The intricate details of virtual reality and gaming kept me hooked to the very end. I especially took a liking to Hideo Tanaka – what an intelligent her mysterious individual he is.. I was wrapped in this fast paced action packed story – and woah.. that twist towards the end!! [not saying any more] I’m going to get into the sequel, Wildcard sooner rather than later!!

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

The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly

BOOK 5 IN THE JACK WEST JR SERIES…

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE FOUR KINGDOMS SCORNED.
THE HUNT FOR JACK WEST JR HAS BEGUN.

A SHADOW WORLD BEHIND THE REAL WORLD

A WORLD WITH ITS OWN HISTORY, RULES AND PRISONS

THAT IS REACHING INTO OUR WORLD … EXPLOSIVELY

We are nearing the end of Matthew Reilly’s amazing septology, we have searched for and found the Seven ancient wonders and the Six sacred stones, discovered the identity of the Five  greatest warriors and fought the battle of all battles during the games of the four legendary kingdoms.

Now, having just arrived home in Australia’s vast outback, battle weary and scarred, all Jack West wants to do is rest and see his wife Zoe and spend time with his friends and family.

But merely three days later, Jack is woken by Zoe.
His new mate from the underworld- Hades, needs his help with the news that ” the world has gone to shit. ”
And so, the adventure and search for the Three secret cities and the three immortal weapons begins.
But Jack and his team are not the only ones searching..as, within the cities are the means for empowering the three weapons used to prevent the Omega event and prevent the worlds complete destruction. And, it is said, he who holds them all, rules the world.

Jack must find them first and prevent life on earth from being completely destroyed in the most unimaginable way.
So together, Jack and his team and his new mates, Hades and Iolanthe from the underworld race around the world in a desperate search for clues to the locations of the three secret cities whilst being terrorised by those who are fueled by greed. Already knowing the whereabouts of one weapon, their first stop is New York city.
For fans of Jack West – buckle up, grab a pillow to punch and some tissues…there will be destruction, there will be casualties – much loved characters will die.

Matthew Reilly doesn’t disappoint with this fast paced, action packed adventure- the fifth of his adventure septology. Loved it and if you haven’t already become addicted to Jack West’s adventures, do yourselves a favour and get reading. I couldn’t put much else without spoiling the plot for readers.  And MR fans hate spoilers…

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Kay

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

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.

-Annie