The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D Lapinski

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure!

This as such a charming adventure, one that is suitable for readers aged 8 and up. At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside. What I enjoyed most about this was how it starts off in the real world, where we get to know Flick (Felicity) and her life and family at home then we are mesmerised as she stumbles across the Strangeworlds Travel Agency where she meets a quirky character by the name of Jonathan-  the agency’s head custodian which sets them off on several adventures to different worlds via.. a suitcase!! But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness and takes our world with it.

With a hint of Narnia, a touch of Jumanji and a pinch of fairytales, this was a wonderfully adventurous read that made me smile, gasp and laugh. It was a lot of fun to get lost in. A fast paced and very easy to read story, I highly recommend this if you’re looking to get lost on a fun fantastical adventure.

Pitched as perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The Train to Impossible Places… I would have to agree…

-Annie

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman Blog Tour

“Happiness, like hummingbirds, can land in your heart.”

Alba has been best friends with Levi since forever. They’re both obsessed with hummingbirds and spend their lunchtimes hiding out in the school library. Alba normally doesn’t mind that Levi’s got a science theory on just about everything. But when he becomes convinced the school librarian has discovered a wormhole in her office, Alba thinks maybe he’s gone too far.

Then there’s Cleo. That’s what Alba calls her left foot, which was twisted in the wrong direction at birth and has been strapped in a brace for most of Alba’s life. With the final cast about to come off, Alba is set on running in her first cross-country race. But what if Levi doesn’t believe she can do it?

Alba’s only ever wanted to be ‘normal’, so why does it feel like she’s losing more than Cleo and a pair of crutches?

Drawing from her own personal experience, the author has written a touching story of self-acceptance. Though a target audience of middle grade readers, this beautiful tale of courage can be enjoyed by readers young and old alike. Wonderful characters you come to care for and a lovely story-line that blends real life with a touch of sci-fi, overall it was an enjoyable and eye-opening story. With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + UQP Books for having me on board for the blog tour.

***LIVE VIDEO CHAT WITH MICHELLE KADAURUSMAN ON INSTAGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT***

Sunday 7 June 2020, 8:00am AEST/Saturday 6 June 2020, 6:00pm PDT – join Annie as she hosts a live video chat on the Read3r’z Re-Vu Instagram account with the author Michelle Kadarusman live from Toronto, Canada!!!
About The Author
Children’s author Michelle Kadarusman grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived many years throughout Indonesia and in Canada. Her children’s novels have been nominated for various awards and honours including the Canadian Governor General’s Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book List, the Freeman Book Award and the Malka Penn Book Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Her work is published internationally and has been translated to Spanish and Turkish.
Author Links
-Annie

As Fast as I Can by Penny Tangey Blog Tour

One girl. One dream. A few hurdles.

Ten-year-old Vivian is determined to win a medal at the Olympic Games one day. Problem is, she hasn’t found a sport she’s any good at yet. But everyone says if you work hard enough you can achieve anything, right? So when Vivian discovers she has a talent for cross country running, finally, her Olympic dream might actually come true.

But then a family illness is uncovered and all of Vivian’s plans begin to unravel.

Can she keep her dream alive?

Or will she be stopped in her tracks?

First of all, I need to say that this book made me feel old (lol) as it brought back memories of my school days – particularly the sports carnivals. I as never much of an athlete but I was a fairly good long distance runner and even made it to district/regional competitions. Although I didn’t aspire to become an athlete, as children, we all have dreams and what really touched my heart about this story was our main character – Vivian – and her dream to make it big in the Olympics only to have it snatched away from her on account of her chronic illness. I don’t normally enjoy books that feature illnesses as it is too harrowing for me to read at times but I felt the author really covered this important theme very well and weaved it into a beautiful and engaging story.

The story was easy to follow, touching and the character was very likeable.  I feel this story can be enjoyed by readers of all ages whether still in school or whether they farewelled those days long ago – it brings back a lot of memories (and understanding – imagine if this was you).  Although this was left with an opening ending, I feel it was still a good story and hey – that’s how life can be, this story is regarding a portion of someone’s life, our futures remain an open pathway.

With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers + UQP Books Publishers for having me on board for this Blog Tour.
-Annie

The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks – Blog Tour + Q&A

First of all, huge congratulations to Danielle Binks on the release of her debut… and what a job well done!!!

Sorrento, Victoria – 1999
Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.

Knowing what an intense story this could be, I was surprised at how easy it was to get engrossed into this book. I felt I was able to connect with the characters and really follow the story intently. The themes of this book were so important – from family, to friendship to the issues of refugees, specifically Kosovar-Albanian refugees in the late 90’s.  The story really is touching and one that will stay with me for awhile. Written very well and very engaging – highly recommended to readers from 10 years old and up though some parental guidance may be required for some of the themes covered in the book. I really appreciate being part of this blog tour. With many thanks to Hachette Publishers and Aus YA bloggers for providing me with an advance review copy and for having me on board for this blog tour. Please read on for a short Q&A with the author herself!!! Congrats again, Danielle!!!
-Annie
Could you describe your writing process when writing this book and how this experience felt constructing your first novel?
My writing process for The Year the Maps Changed was horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. 
 
I had the idea in about 2016, to go back to examine this year I remembered from my own childhood and the real political event of ‘Operation Safe Haven’. I wrote a prologue in the heat of my first brainstorming, and then …. I went off and conducted procrastinated research for about 5-years. Don’t get me wrong, the research was important – but 5-years was a little ridiculous and it’s clear to me now that I was stalling. I was very intimidated to write historic-fiction, and get something *wrong*. But then towards the tail-end I just got so sick of myself for putting it off, that I wrote the first draft in a fever of 3-months … and discovered that actually; researching is not writing, WRITING is actual writing. Funny, that. 
 
And a sign that I could have written this a lot earlier if I’d just got out of my own way, was the fact that the prologue I wrote on Day 1 in 2016 didn’t change. It was my launching-off point and remained my prologue forevermore. It’s the one part of the story (the crucial beginning that gave me a framework for the WHOLE thing) that I got right from Day 1, and I should have followed-through more quickly … 
Your story is inspired by true events – was this a personal experience or something you came to know and followed closely over time?

I was the same age as my protagonist in 1999, and so while I remembered ‘Operation Safe Haven’ it was truly only ever vague recollections and more this feeling of … needing to tuck that little spark away somewhere, and take it out to examine later. Which I did – and partly because around 2015/16 politicians were throwing out the idea of reopening the Point Nepean Quarantine Station, and using it as a detention centre. But that got a lot of pushback from locals (and luckily, has not happened) – and a lot of the pushback was to do with how that wasn’t in the spirit of Operation Safe Haven and the last time refugees had been housed there. It wasn’t a ‘detention centre’ then, as we awfully know them now – it was a Safe Haven. Two beautiful words I remembered from long ago, and I decided to go down that rabbit-hole of history and memory …

By the time I got around to wondering what that historic event meant in a wider context for Australian and world politics, I was able to see this remarkable story unfolding with the gift of hindsight, and from a vantage point of knowing how Australia treats refugees and asylum seekers *now* – so I wanted to go back and kind of track how we got to such a point of inhumanity and brutality.

Is there a particular character in this book you can relate to? Why?
Oh gosh, Fred. I gave her the best and worst of me – and some things I gave her were a reflection of my own childhood (like a father in the police-force, and a grandparent who lives out the back of the main house). Fred and her actions are largely coloured by grief, and come out of her through fear and anger, and that wasn’t me. I haven’t had nearly as tough a life as Fred has – but also; I wouldn’t have handled the kind of childhood Fred’s had, with such eventual grace and understanding I don’t think. She’s a prickly character, which I also relate to (and frankly, I quite like reading young female characters who are sometimes awful, and nasty, selfish and egotistical – I think young female characters often get this ‘goodness’ injection to them in the hopes that readers don’t turn against them, but I wanted to show a young girl who is grappling with a lot and making mistakes but by golly, she’s also growing and embracing). 

Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

It’s Singapore in 1940, war is just around the corner—but twelve-year-old Lizard doesn’t know that. He lives in Chinatown above a tailor’s shop, surviving on his wits and hustling for odd jobs.

When he steals a small teak box containing a Japanese code book from a Raffles Hotel suite, he finds himself in a dangerous world of wartime espionage. Lizard doesn’t know who to trust. How is the mysterious book inside the box connected to his friend Lili, a girl full of secrets and fighting skills? Can he trust her, or will she betray him in the end?

This was an enjoyable and interesting MG that can be embraced by older readers. Set in Singapore, about a year prior to the bombing of Singapore by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force and occupation of Singapore by Japan in WWII, this historical fiction MG follows Lizard, a poor boy who survives on ‘odd jobs’ and unintentionally gets caught up in military intelligence by finding a box he was sent on an errand for. He’s best friends with Lili who is harbouring a secret that can lead to danger for both Lizard and Lili but this mysterious box brings them together for an adventure both of them were not prepared for. With accurate historical referencing intertwined with a thrilling military – spy story, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very quick and easy to read. Readers can learn a lot about pre-war Singapore in this book. I really liked the friendship between Lili and Lizard and even admired Lili’s jealousy of Lizard’s new friend Georgina – whilst Lili is tough, smart and fiercely loyal to Lizard despite the prejudice her family gave against Lizard due to caste, her flaws made her human.

An enjoyable book, recommended for both MG + YA readers.

Special thanks to Text Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Junior Fiction Round Up of Recommendations

Here is a round up of books that are highly recommended to the younger readers…
These were great we hope you enjoy them!!!

Children of the Dragon: The Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
Although this book can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, this is highly recommended to readers aged 8 years and up. Thoroughly enjoyable full of culturally infused adventure, fun characters and a lot of action – very cool magic and martial arts that holds the attention of an 8 year old reader.

When Harley Spark accidentally releases Qing, one of five dragon sisters, from the ancient vase she’s been trapped in for centuries, he is soon on a dangerous international mission with Qing to find and free her four sisters. Harley gave a little shiver as he peered at the mysterious girl’s message. She’d written: DRAGON KING RETURNS. So when Harley finds an antique Chinese vase on the footpath, something compels him to stuff it under his school jumper and run for home. Little does he know he’s about to reignite a centuries-old war between two ancient, supernatural families…  The Relic of the Blue Dragon is the first book in the action-packed Children of the Dragon.

Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book
-Annie

Good Rosie! by Katie DiCamillo, Illustrated by Harry Bliss
Picture book suitable for young readers aged 5 years and up.
A swet tale of a lonely dog, who only wants a friend or two. Rosie is shy and a bit hesitant when it comes to meeting other dogs. But Rosie overcomes her shyness to help another dog. Rosie shows us that you can make friends even if you are shy.
Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

Brimstone: Fire Watcher Chronicles, Book 1 by Kelly Gardiner
December 1940: Christopher Larkham finds an ancient Roman ring inscribed with a phoenix on the banks of the Thames. As he takes shelter from the firestorm of the Blitz, the ring glows, and pushing open a door, he finds himself in 1666 and facing the Great Fire of London. Fire-and-brimstone preacher, Brother Blowbladder, and his men of the Righteous Temple have prayed for the ancient gods of fire to bring flames down upon London, a city of sin. Could Christopher be their messenger? And why do the Righteous men wear the same phoenix symbol as the engraving on Christopher’s ring.

This is a great middle great read and a promising start to a new series. A lovely blend of time travel and, magic and mystery, suitable for readers aged 8 years and up. Fast paced and a real page turner, loved the adventure it was very easy to get into this book and read it to the very end. Excited for book 2 now.

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

 

A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy by Libby Hathorn, Illustrated by Phil Lesnie
Picture book suitable for young readers aged 7 years and up
A young soldier far away from home, a boy orphaned by war, and the stray dog that brings them together.
A beautiful illustrated story that tells us the tale of a soldier, a dog and a boy.
The illustrations in this book bring the words alive.
-Meredith

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

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

A beautiful middle grade steampunk fantasy adventure story…

This story is set in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. An institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music.

For the innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only the number 13 etched on a medallion around his neck and does not have a name, this place is the only home he has ever known but unexpected courage leads him to an unexpected friendship and the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives him two amazing gifts: a real name “Arthur” like the good king in the old stories and friendship. From here, they embark on an excitingly scary adventure that will take them out into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.

This was such a wonderful book to read. So beautifully written and just so heartwarming. It brought back memories of my childhood when I embraced The Chronicles of Narnia – the friendships formed in the “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” as well as the characters and adventure. This is a middle grade fantasy fiction story however an adult can really enjoy this. A fantastic tale of courage, friendship and adventure with amazing illustrations that really brings the story to life. It’s one collectable you will want to keep on your shelf forever and a story you will want to read over and over again.

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie