When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The next “Looking for Alibrandi” – will become a Modern Australian Classic – A book EVERY Australian MUST read!!
Amazing – Mind Blowing – 5 STAR READ!!!

This book is YA Contemporary Fiction from the brilliant, Randa Abdel-Fattah – an author of whom I have the greatest respect – she is such an inspiration to me and I love that she’s written this book. This book explores important issues that a lot of young Australians are facing in today. I can see this book becoming classroom reads for English HSC students. I had the pleasure of doing a read along for this book with another author, friend Shivaun Plozza (author of Frankie)

“When Michael Met Mina” is so relevant to today’s current climate, not only does this book explore immigration and refugees, it also explores Islamaphobia that unfortunately exists in today’s society. By following 2 teens: Michael and Mina, it drives a powerful message that a lot of the fear we see stems either from ignorance or is fuelled by media propaganda but it only takes one to listen openly, one to dig a little bit deeper and do their own research to reach mutual respect and understanding. It also demonstrates that not everyone is tainted with the same brush – a minority do not represent the majority.

Randa did so well with the duel perspective as both voices in the book are very clear, she also did extremely well in showing both sides of the debate which opened my eyes to a few things I never thought of before. The story follows 2 teenagers who come from completely different walks of life: Mina came to Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan and years later wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in the north shore. Mina has grown up in Australia and her parents are small business owners – as a family they love and embrace Australia and try to give back to the land that gave them protection however her initial refugee status is a stigma and she is also subject to Islamaphobia. Mina deals with her move to a new place as well as her identity as she tries to settles into her new school. Mina spends a lot of her school days with her new friend Paula however she meets another student, Michael and everything changes. Michael: a boy born and raised in Australia and is from a family who heads up a campaign called “Aussie Values” which preaches against the incoming of migrants, refugees and Islam.. However, It’s not until Michael meets Mina at school when he begins to question what he’s always known..

I found this to be such a gripping and important coming of age story, thankyou Randa Abdel-Fattah for writing this and thankyou Shivaun Plozza for the twitter updates during our fun read along!!!
-Annie

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

“When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” – Graceling, Kristin Cashore

5 stars! Heart pounding and heart warming read! 

Graceling is a dynamic, action-packed read. I liked the concept of a medieval fantasy world containing individuals born with special abilities known as Graces, which is both deadly and exploited. I feel that the author has put a lot of thought into the world and the main character Katsa, who had to come to terms with her grace (the grace of killing) and her identity. I loved all the elements in the story from world building, the quests, characters, dialogue, plot and themes about individualism and independent choices. The story had the right mix of pace, interesting abilities and unforgettable characters that stays with you until the last page. I enjoyed the coming-of-age aspects of Katsa’s character, the highlight for me was seeing her character grow and confidence in making her own choices. For the romantics, the romance element was endearing, heartwarming and memorable – Po is a charming, incredibly caring and courageous character deserving of our protagonist’s love, read it and tell me if you feel the same! I also didn’t see all the twists and turns, but for the few that I did see – I had to read on and see if my theory held. I want to thank Jacky who told me about this marvellous novel. 

– NJ

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads

Other interesting quotes:

“Katsa sat in the darkness of the Sunderan forest and understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone’s but her own.”

“How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people – girls, women – went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.”

“It seems better to me for a child to have these skills and never use them, than not have them and one day need them,” she said.

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 by Anaïs Nin, Gunther Stuhlmann (editor)

“We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.” – Anaïs Nin

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing… The romantic submits to life, the classicist dominates it.” – Anaïs Nin

5 stars – A reflective, poignant journal of Anaïs Nin’s internal surreal world

Reading The Diary of Anaïs Nin is like diving into an ocean of poetic feelings and nuanced perspectives written with artistry, eloquence and surrealism. It makes you want to swim in her sea of words and discover who she really is (beyond the essayist and writer). The Diary volume 1 is a interesting (but expurgated) account of Anaïs Nin’s life aged 28-31 years old. Anaïs is a complex woman; she is unafraid to explore her psyche and desperate need for love. She writes about all the roles that she must play in life for others – the artist, writer, patient, lover, daughter and friend.

Anaïs is an eloquent writer and a progressive thinker of her time. Her intimate diary accounts self-reflections on her relationships, art, being a woman, life, love, passion, writing, surrealism, seduction, feminism & femininity, psychoanalysis, compassion, honesty and her relationship with her father. I enjoyed reading her unique view of the world, which is truthful, perceptive and deeply poignant. She writes thoughtful and observant points about life and people. Near the end, I was shocked by her experiences and touched by her revelations. It’s no small thing to be able to describe feelings so accurately like she did. In my view, her diary is about self-discovery and individualism; it’s about her coming to terms with her own choices and her relationships. It’s also an intriguing read about her neurotic, artistic friends and lovers. Anaïs’ diary however does contain [spoiler alert] undertones of her incestuous relationship with her estranged father (you have been warned), this in no way detracts from her potent and expressive sophisticated writing. Recommended for readers that enjoy reading different perspectives on life and self-reflection, and readers who like eloquent, poetic writing and a provocative read. I will be getting the internationally acclaimed volume 2 soon!

– NJ

Other interesting quotes from the book:

“For my life is slowed up by thought and the need to understand what I am living.”

“He overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.”

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvellous.”

“I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feelings, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless.”

“You cannot possess without loving.”

“As an ordinary woman I might have been serenely happy with such a miniature life, but I am not that woman.”

“I want the key, the key to the lies” [Henry] “Passion and violence never opened a human being.” [Anais] “What opens human beings?” “Compassion.”

“You have no gratitude because you have no love. To be grateful, one must first know how to love.”

“Proofs of love and friendship are what I give to others all the time. And everyone seems to need them.”

“I want to give him life and adventure, but I cannot convey to him that it is the mood, not the places, the relationships which can light up shabby hotel rooms, stained cafe tables, brimming  noisy streets, sour wine.”

“Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create. And then love will come to you.”

“I wondered whether he was right that it was the rituals we had lost, or whether it was that people had lost the power to feel, and that no ritual would give it to them.”

“For the absolute, one dies if one wants the absolute.” 

“The neurotic is the modern romantic who refuses to die because of his illusions and fantasies prevent him from living. He enters a combat to live. We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.”

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with. I was convinced of people’s need of illusion.”

“It is the woman who has to speak. And it is not only the woman Anais who has to speak, but I who have to speak for many women. As I discover myself, I feel I am merely one of many, a symbol. I begin to understand June, Jeanne, and many others…, women of yesterday and today. The mute ones of the past, the inarticulate, who took refuge behind wordless intuitions; and the women of today, all action, and copies of men. And I, in between… My life has been one long series of efforts, self-discipline, will. Here I can sketch, improvise, be free, and myself.”

“We love best those who are, or act for us, a self we do not wish to be or act out.”

“The struggle to live by my own truth is so difficult, so weary… I am like the adventurer who leaves all those he loves, and returns with his arms full of gold; and then they are happy and they forget how they tried to keep this adventurer from exploring, from his voyage and his search.”

“Poetic vision is not the outcome of blindness but of a force which can transcend the ugliest face of reality, swallow and dissolve it by its strength, not evasion.” 

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads.