Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blog Tour: When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah



Firstly, thanks to PanMacmillan Australia for this review copy and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour <3

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Date Read: June 12-14 2016
Date Released: June 28th 2016
Publisher: PanMacmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: 

Synopsis:
"Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.

When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees - standing on opposite sides.

Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.

Michael's parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.

They want to stop the boats.
Mina wants to stop the hate.

When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael's private school, their lives crash together blindingly.

A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice."

---


Last year, my work had us visit a high school in western Sydney which has had a long running relationship with my organisation. We gave the students tips on writing resumes and in return they cooked for us and showcased student talent. I can tell you, we got so much more out of it than the students. The student population is extremely diverse. A few students who had the courage to get up in front of an audience, told us their stories. One young girl’s story moved me to tears. I’m really terrible at re-telling things but here goes a summarised version (which sounds very emotionless I’m sorry):

She was born in Syria into a loving family and enjoyed going to school. Her favourite hobby was drawing. Your typical kid. Then the discord and war in her country started. Bombs and fighting right on her doorstep. At some point a bomb had exploded 2 blocks away from her school and she was too afraid to return to school after that. Her and her family were living in fear constantly, but they managed to flee their war-torn country and make it out to Australia. At the end of her speech she said she was grateful to be in Australia, back in school and that her dream was to be an artist. I can say that everybody in that hall was reflecting on how lucky we are over here. And it pains me to say that this young girl was one of the lucky ones – she made it out. How many others don’t? Who is even keeping count?

While Abdel-Fattah’s story of Mina and Michael is a fictional one, it’s also true. The horrors that Mina faced in Afghanistan clash violently with Michael’s family’s Aussie Values campaign and I was sucked in to this book from page one.

I freaking adored Mina’s character. She was wise beyond her years as a result of everything she’d been through and it pleased me greatly when she spoke up against something she didn’t believe in/wasn’t right. Her strength of character and her voice felt a lot like me as I’m not one to back down on my beliefs. What made me love Mina even more was the fact that she’d won a scholarship to a prestigious lower North Shore school and she worked so hard to do her best. To be the best, not only for herself, but to make her parents happy. Because her parents left their culturally comfortable Auburn home, for the snotty north, so Mina would be close to school. She never complained for a moment that her life is hard, that she’s stressed or doesn’t have enough. She’s so grateful for everything in front of her, for all her parents have sacrificed for her. I feel that many kids these days, especially the ones who’ve been born into a typical suburban life, would never understand that. She is resilient, a wonderful friend, and so passionate. And you know what? She listens. If she doesn’t understand a belief, she’ll challenge and question and try to understand as we see throughout the book. Honestly, I couldn’t have read a more well written and realistic character.

Then there’s Michael, the son of the leader of Aussie Values – an organisation that wants to stop the boats. He has a loving family, with parents who express their views in such a calm, rational way that I could almost (almost) sympathise with their cause. And here was Michael’s struggle. As Mina opens his eyes to the horrors of war, generations rotting away in refugee camps, being locked in detention centres for who knows how long, and the racist, hypocritical statements of his parents, we see the internal battle in Michael. I really liked the way Michael was written. His character progression is slow, with bits of hesitation about his parents’ beliefs coming out bit by bit. And given his circumstances (suburban rich white boy), it was just the right pace for the story. But is it enough to change his views?

Friendships and familial ties are at stake as we can see from the secondary characters. We see Mina’s family trying to get by in their new affluent suburb, the added on stress from their new restaurant. Then there’s Michael’s group of friends who sound as bogan as they can come. But Abdel-Fattah shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Because Australia is a multicultural country and we are shaped by all that we are. There are lovely neighbours next door and around the corner who want to help. There are intelligent, and supportive friends like Paula who stand at Mina’s side. And the majority of students that Mina interacts with at school don’t care about her race or background – they care about her academically and who is going to out-perform who. 

Underpinning the to-ing and fro-ing of arguments between Mina and Michael are the increasingly reckless and intolerable things Aussie Values were willing to do in an attempt to get their name out. The things they said, the actions they took, had me dreading what would happen next. While I’ve never ventured much to the North Shore, it disgusted me that people who should be educated and high income earners, would be so closed-minded. However, I do believe there are people like that everywhere and Abdel-Fattah writes it all very realistically (hah well because it is real).

The one thing I didn’t like about this book and the reason I knocked off a star was the romance. It all felt very insta-lovey in the beginning and the pacing of the development of their relationship (hot and cold, fast and slow) had me feeling a bit off kilter. Y’all know I hate my insta-love and the romance of a novel is the hardest thing to win me on LOL. Yeah at times it was struggle street to read when romance was concerned but it’s cute nonetheless. And don’t worry, there are way too many things between these two for them to get together that easily… or at all? I won’t spoil!

What had me closing this book with such a happy feeling was the way Abdel-Fattah wrote it all. She presents two very well written perspectives, and she challenges the reader through Mina, but she never forces anything down the reader’s throat. I felt that I was hearing a lot of Mina’s arguments but I could hold on to my own beliefs too if they differed. Why? Because a lot of character’s values and beliefs in the book didn’t change by the end. And I loved that. You might find it disappointing but one person’s voice may not reach everybody. I think even if it reaches one person, it’s great.

When Michael Met Mina may be marketed at the young-adult demographic but it’s a book I think every Australian (and then some) need to read. It’s about international justice, modern-day Australian politics, a history of racism bred through generations, the victims of war, multiculturalism, and ultimately what it means to be Australian.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Gotta Catch Em All: Pokemon Go Book Tag



TO CATCH THEM IS MY REAL TEST, TO TRAIN THEM IS MY CAUSE~~~

Y'all Pokemon is my childhood. I know all the words to the theme song for the first season of the anime haha. I used to watch it everyday before school.

When Pokemon Go was officially released I was mega excite to be a Pokemon Master too. And then I was mega mega excite when Aentee created the Pokemon Go book tag. Thank you to Kristy for tagging me <3

This book tag and all it's graphics are created by Aentee. Pokemon Go is owned by Niantic and Nintendo.

I chose Charmander as my starter and I'm glad I did. While I've found HEAPS of Bulbasaurs (I now have all the evolutions hehe) and quite a few Squirtles, my starter Charmander remains the only one in my collection.

I've always had books around me. From the time I was a baby my parents would buy me those block books, fabric books, Disney Golden Books (omg I loved those) so I was always surrounded by stories growing up.

That being said when I was about 7 I was introduced to Harry Potter and after that my obsession with books really began. HARRY POTTER Y'ALL.


Pikachu is SO hard to find. I'm mega jelly of those who have one.

Is it cheating if I say Harry Potter again? I feel that Harry Potter is a classic.
If we're talking classics classic, then Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is forever a fave. Otherwise I'm going to go with Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. I think I read that when I was like 10 and it was my first foray into YA. It's one of my favs ever since.


Zubats for days y'all. But they're exp so why not? Catch em all during the day then transfer and evolve them at the end for all that exp!

I'm one of those people that will try everything once, either to see what the hype is about, or I managed to get in early (yay book community for hearing about all the new book goss) so it wasn't everywhere when I first read it.

That being said I tried a lot to read Across the Universe because of the hype but I couldn't so DNF :c

The hell do I get this?

Hands down Victoria Aveyard's debut Red Queen. It felt like a mix of all the YA books out there and yet I really, really enjoyed it possibly because of the X-Men vibes. It was so fun and I loved the MC.

If I was to use a Pokemon to describe me, it'd be this guy. I love my sleep and I wish I could do it all day (and read too). Also need one of these guys for my Pokedex.

I don't think many things can intimidate me now after Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings lol, of which my edition had to be split into 2 parts, both books being 600 - 700 pages each.
I reckon Jay Kristoff's Endsinger (the last Lotus War book) I've not started because that whopper I know is going to be nearly 700 pages of heartbreak. It's not the size, but rather the amount of pages that will make me cry. I'M SO SCARED.

I think I've seen a Gengar on my radar, need Gastly too! I love this guy's mischievous look. I also think Koffing and Weezing look hilarious (which Gengar reminds me of because they're all purple). Koffing looks permanently high and Weezing's like that hangover you got after Sunday partying and you turn up to work like ded.

SOOOOOO many books have kept me up all night but one I distinctly remember is Vampire Academy! I was up until 3am binging the first 2-3 back in the day. Also Leigh Bardugo's The Gathering Dark when it came out (Shadow & Bone) I finished in 1 sitting.


I am close to evolving my Nidorina/o into King/Queen!

Ok for this I'm going to go with a finished book series where my ship has officially sailed. There are a few of my OTPs who I adore and the series isn't finished so they could sink, or they've pretty much sunk and I need my HEA SO

*SPOILER ALERT*

Alex and Aiden from Covenant by Jennifer L. Armentrout holy shit these 2 are my favs. The way Alex chose Aiden, their love, everything he'd do for her. I CRIED BUCKETS AT THE END OF SENTINEL.

Rapidash is so pretty. I want one! I found a Ponyta the other day which made me really happy,

I'm going with The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, the last book to The Wrath & the Dawn duology. TR&tD was sooooooooooo fast paced, and steamy, and full of feels, I could not stop turning the pages. I just wanted more and more and I devoured the thing in like 1.5 days with work!

Eevee is actually my favourite Pokemon. Ever. Actually, it rivals Mew in favouritism (I only consider the first 151, anything after is not original for me). But yes Eevee! I need more of this adorable thing so I can finally get my Vaporean.

I don't think I could ever get sick of Vampire Academy spin-offs. I love seeing Rose and Dimitri everywhere. I only read Bloodlines to see their cameos *heart melts*

Gotta catch all them Magikarp. I'm still like 250 away from Gyarados.

Can I say A Court of Mist and Fury? This book has shoved everything aside (including my previous #1 Throne of Glass) to take the place of fav ever. Like I KNEW I'd love it regardless because I adore Sarah's writing. But I had doubts about the direction it would taken. 
BUT THEN MY SHIP AND A CERTAIN SOMEONE AND THEN THINGS HAPPENED AND WOW IT'S LIKE MAAS DECIDED TO KICK MAGIKARP SO GYARADOS JUST POPPED UP AND SHOCKED EVERYBODY (see what I did there?)

Honestly when I've had a shit day this makes it better and helps me sleep at night.


ARTICUNO <333 (ok yes I wouldn't mind Moltres/Zapdos either but I love blue, TEAM MYSTIC woo and Articuno is the coolest - GEDDIT? Hurhur)

I reckon I've started most of the overhyped series because I didn't want to miss out (not gonna lie I reckon I added to the ToG hype #proud)... Ok so I just went through my whole Goodreads and I've at least read book 1 of every overhyped series out there O_O 
WAIT WAIT Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman? Don't think it's overhyped though? IDK


Mewmewmewmewmew Mew <3

It took me ages to come up with this because Collector's Editions aren't big in YA, especially here in Aus. I mostly buy the edition I like for my favs or I buy multiple editions (e.g. Harry Potter, Sarah J Maas, Amie Kaufman/Jay Kristoff) but then I remembered THIS...


THIS is the 10th anniversary leather bound special edition of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. ALSO OMG IT WAS PREVIOUSLY SOLD OUT BUT NOW THEY'VE DONE A SECOND PRINTING... It's $100USD but Elantris is my fav of his DO I GET IT? Cryyyy $100USD?! But want... want want want.


I keep getting low CP Pokemon I already from these eggs dangit!

Ooooh Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. I'm so excited for Krystal's new book out in September. #LoveOZYa

Bless working in the CBD and all those people who just drop lures on every Pokestop around.

Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahhaa. 

Say it me y'all: SARAH J MAAS.

(And Jessica Shirvington, Victoria Schwab, Brandon Sanderson, Leigh Bardugo, Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, Melina Marchetta, Kasie West, Katie McGarry.)




Worst possible screen to get.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta holy I don't know how long I've been waiting for this book.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight #2) by Melissa Grey

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: June 15-27 2016
Date Released: July 12th 2016
Publisher: Atom (Hachette Australia)
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Everything in Echo's life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she's already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature--or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what's left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour."

---

The Shadow Hour is one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 because The Girl at Midnight was one of my favs of 2015. I’m not sure what to say about TSH – while I certainly enjoyed it, I didn’t think it wow’d me enough. I think this is because it took me so long to read it, partially because as I had so much going on in my life, but also because the story didn’t progress in a way that had me going “just one more chapter” whilst reading before bed.

The story opens with our gang hiding after the ending of book 1. The new threat that looms is the universe’s way of balancing Echo’s power and it’s basically this that drives the plot of book 2.

Whilst Echo is still witty in TSH she’s definitely a lot more subdued – which is expected given the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the perfect character progression on Grey’s part but at the same time I missed her sarcasm and banter which brought so much life to TGaM. Echo is suffering internally – with what she’s become, with new responsibilities heaped upon her, and what’s to come. It’s a lonely ride for her as nobody really understands what she’s going through. I liked the way slowly accepts many things but is also willing to fight for what she hopes she can change.

I quite liked the glimpses into the Avicen and Drakharin worlds through Ivy, Rowan, Jasper, Caius, Dorian and even Tanith. They may be slight, but through slips in conversation and thoughts between these secondary characters I felt like I understood a bit more of their way of life prior to the mess. I loved the bonds of friendship that deepened between our gang, especially the understanding that developed between Ivy and Dorian.

Speaking of Dorian *bites lip* ohohoho MY SHIP. Dorian and a certain Avicen in this book had me smiling so much. Seeing these two trying to find a comfortable common ground was so endearing. At times it was a little too much push and not enough pull. But at some point, our shy Drakharin begins to slowly come out of his shell and our flamboyant Avicen responds in kind. FLAILLLL. As for my other ship? Well Echo is quite rightly indecisive in this book and my heart hurt for the guy I’m rooting for and I’m holding out hope in The Savage Dawn for them. I am so appreciative of Grey for writing a swoony romance in lieu of my other ship.

I think the plot in the first half of the book was what dragged it down for me. Not enough was happening – there were attacks, there was plotting but for some reason the pacing was off for me. I felt like there was something missing that gave TGaM that extra oomph. However, the book really picks up in the last quarter and the ending is INTENSE. Like knocked me off my feet and had me like omggggggggggggg what I NEED THE SAVAGE DAWN intense. There’s like darkness and pew pew and pow pow and boom and POOF ohmygod who died (did somebody die? You’ll have to read to find out). Whew that ending was so awesome. IT’S A CLIFFHANGER *cries* Can I please have the last book now?

My favourite aspect of this series though, is Grey’s writing. It’s descriptive and lush in an unassuming way. The way she teaches the reader words in foreign languages and puts in the definitions fits the situation so well. It’s not pretentious – it feels so natural and really adds substance to the story. The way she utilises 3rd person POV to describe character emotions too, adds dimensions to characters that, from Echo’s POV may seem unreadable. Grey’s style is definitely a highlight and what makes this series really standout.

While faltering in pace at the beginning, the strong character development, exploration of relationships and cliffhanger ending wrapped up in Grey’s elegant prose, makes The Shadow Hour an enjoyable sequel.