Review & Author Interview: Arrival by Alex Slade

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Arrival by Alex Slade
Released: 22nd October 2016
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Author
Pages: 247
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thirty-three missing in the past two months, all without a trace.

Detective Jake Westbrook is overburdened with cases that seem impossible to solve, despite his almost perfect clearance rate. More and more people are disappearing every week, and this phenomenon brings together five characters with no relation to one another as they try to figure out how to prevent themselves from being taken next. As their search for answers continues, they start to wonder if something more sinister is at hand...

Mysterious, eerie, but also exciting, Arrival is a gripping mystery thriller debut that will definitely keep you up all night.
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Arrival is a suspenseful debut novel which takes the best elements of a thriller and sci-fi novel to create a riveting read. With multiple perspectives which offer you tantalising glimpses at the mystery behind the phenomena of these missing people, there is always an element of intrigue to keep your interest. But aside from the tension generated by the two detectives on a mission to solve this case, comes a dimension where science fiction becomes reality for the characters. Though sci-fi is generally a genre I don't explore much of, I'm glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to be swept up in this exhilarating story.

Divided into chapters which alternate between 'The Detective', 'The Pilot', 'The Dreamer', 'The Teacher' and 'The Thief', Slade has shown skill in ensuring that each of these characters were unique. The details of their lifestyles and flaws are given enough attention, and we are drawn to asking the question of why they, or someone they know, have simply vanished. The detectives Jake and Chris who first set the tone of the story are well-rounded characters who the reader hopes will be able to uncover where these missing people have disappeared to. While at times the purpose of some of the chapters seemed unclear, the haze eventually lifts towards the second half of the novel where more twists occur and the stakes for these fated individuals are higher than ever.

I really liked how once you become almost 'settled' into the mystery element of the book, the sci-fi suddenly comes into play which offers a welcome and fascinating change of pace. The world-building, though not complete, is enough to envision what Slade's imagined society is like. I look forward to seeing how this is further explored in the next installments of the series.


I can definitely see that Alex Slade has the potential to be a hit with sci-fi and thriller readers. Steeped in suspense from beginning to end, I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Author Interview with Alex Slade

When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author and publish a novel?

Growing up, I'd always wanted to be a filmmaker. I still do, but I've discovered it was mainly because I wanted to express my ideas and share my stories, and writing a novel was a way to do just that. I love writing and coming up with stories, so the idea behind Arrival was such a blast to devise. We all hear about a good book that is hard to put down and keeps people talking about it long after they finish reading it, and I hope to do that with my releases too.

What authors have influenced or inspired you when writing Arrival? 

Drew Karpyshyn has been a significant influence. I'm a huge fan of Star Wars and Mass Effect, so his novels were right up my alley. Arrival draws a lot of inspiration from the worlds found in those stories. J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Marin have also been big influences, in that they can create such layered characters and detailed worlds. The plan for Arrival and the following books in the series is to incorporate a grand adventure found in fantasy books and bring them into a sci-fi setting.

One facet of the story which brings the suspense is the multiple perspectives. Was there a character which came to you before the others?

Initially, I'd written the story as a screenplay. I'd come up with the idea before any of the characters, so there really wasn't one that'd come to me first. A lot of the characters had originated in some of my other stories. I'd brought them into this one, knowing that they'd each have a different outlook on the situation, and that none of them would feel the same.

What were the best/most challenging aspects of writing your debut?

Mainly, managing the book post-release. As it's self-published, I'm doing all of the promotion and working on making sure it's accessible for as many people as possible. That includes working on getting it printed and also making it available as an audiobook. Additionally, before I started writing it, I struggled with working out the tense and whether or not it should be in first or third-person. 

When you're not writing, what are some of your favourite books you've been reading lately?

Lately, I've been finding an interest in graphic novels, which I'd never really read before. Currently, I'm reading Locke and Key, which is a fantastic dark supernatural series. I'm also reading Fables which offers a refreshing and mature take on the fairy tale genre. Vagrant is another novel I’ve started, which is so far fantastic.

If there's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring authors out there, what would it be?

Make sure you're prepared. Writing is the fun part, but that's just the beginning. Be prepared to spend more time editing your book than you did writing it. Also, listen to all feedback. It'll help a lot, and you will become a better writer for it.

You have mentioned that Arrival will be in a series. Can you give us a hint at what to expect next?

So far, there's a plan to release four books in the series. The next entry will have the characters adjusting to the new predicaments they're in, while simultaneously trying to find a way out of them. They'll be truly tested and will have to adapt if they want to make it.

Genie's Weekly News (54) - New contemporary novels, concerts and reading out of my comfort zone

Sunday, 18 December 2016

As Christmas inches closer bookstores get busier than ever, and of course my book hauls get even larger than usual (but more on that next week!). For now, here's some other updates:

Currently Reading

Stunning cover and the story is beginning to match it! 

Recommendation of the Week

I finally understand why this book is such a popular 'cult classic' - once again reading out of my comfort zone with some Chuck Palahniuk, but it was definitely worth it. 

Previous Posts

From the Interwebs

Book Haul

Stay tuned for my Christmas book haul next week, but for now I have two titles which I'm really excited for! Thanks again to my #AusYA Secret Santa for It Ends With Us.

What I've Been Watching

I'd always heard good things about Poldark, but hadn't started watching it until now. I'm so glad that I finally have though as I loved the first series and can't wait to begin the second! Also, if there's any other historical dramas out there you'd recommend, let me know.

Other Updates

I was lucky enough to see Coldplay live on Tuesday and they were (as expected) AMAZING. The amount of energy they have on stage and the design of the production itself made for a fantastic night. I'd definitely see them again!

A photo posted by Eugenia (Genie In A Book) (@genie_inabook) on

What are you looking forward to the most about Christmas?

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Releases I'm Looking Forward to

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish. I know, Christmas this year hasn't even passed yet, but there are so many upcoming releases to be excited about! This week I've  picked the top ten books which I'm looking forward to in the first half of 2017.

1. Begin End Begin #LoveOzYA Anthology

NEED THIS IN MY LIFE. Can't wait to see so many renowned Aussie YA authors in one collection of stories. It's going to be epic. 

2. Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer

I really adored Gabrielle Tozer's past releases The Intern and Faking It so this contemporary looks like another promising addition to Aussie YA. I'm lucky enough to have an ARC of this so will be reading it soon!

3. A Shadow's Breath by Nicole Hayes

This is another Aussie YA title that sounds really intriguing. It definitely sounds like something thrilling and gripping - just the type of story I'm after. I know Nicole Hayes has written some other great novels which I hope to check out as well. 

4. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

YA Scifi set in space seems to be the next big thing to take off. Of course when it was announced that Veronica Roth would have another book coming out the hype exploded, and I hope that this one is worth it!

5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Tempted to say I picked this one just for the cover...though the premise is enchanting as well.

6. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

The last book I read about a protagonist with bipolar disorder was When We Collided by Emery Lord so I'll be curious to see how this compares. 

7. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Though I didn't love Passenger quite as much as The Darkest Minds trilogy, I still want to know how the duology ends with Wayfarer. 

8. Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Pretty cover? Tick. More YA set in space? Tick. Do I want this ASAP? YES.

9. Lost Girls by Marie Destefano

So apparently this has been marketed as Black Swan meets Fight Club. SOLD.

10. In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

I am a fan of Trish Doller so am interested to see what she's done with this YA contemporary novel set in Egypt. 

Three sneaky extras...

11. Say No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson

This sounds like more than your typical YA contemporary set in high school...I'm sensing some feminist vibes here - and I like it.

12. The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestones

This looks like a fun story about five unlikely local heroes and what comes with that newfound fame.

13. Traveler by L.E. Dilano

Time travel and multiple realities provide the basis for a potentially amazing read - I'll be definitely looking out for this one!

What are some books you're looking forward to in 2017?

2016 AusYA Bloggers Secret Santa Blog Hop!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

1. What are your top 5 favourite books this year?

This question is always such a difficult one to answer! Since the next one is specifically for Aussie YA I'll try to pick some of my other favourites here:

  • The Simple Act of Reading by Debra Adelaide and Others
  • The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid
  • You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

2. What are your top 5 favourite Aussie YA books this year?

It's been another fabulous year for #LoveOzYA - with a few books from authors I've already come to know and love, and some new ones too. 

  • Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
  • The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
  • The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French
  • My Best Friend is a Goddess by Tara Eglington
  • Shield (Spark #3) by Rachael Craw (let's say NZ counts here)

3. How did you go with your Goodreads challenge?

I didn't get to read quite as much as I had hoped this year with uni work added to the mix, but I am glad that that I got to expand my horizons and try some adult lit as well. 

4. What is your favourite blogging moment of 2016?

Once again going to TeenCon at the Sydney Writer's Festival was a definite highlight! It was also fantastic to go to the HarperCollins and Hachette Christmas Roadshow events to get a glimpse at what's coming up next year as well. 

5. What are your blogging goals for 2017?

To post as regularly as possible and keep doing the best I can to get the word out about the books which deserve positive recognition. I also hope to read even more #LoveOzYA titles...which brings me to the next question!

6. What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

  • Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer
  • Begin, End, Begin - a #LoveOzYA Anthology
  • Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  • Speak of Me As I Am by Sonia Belasco

7. What is your favourite thing about the Aussie YA community?  

Seeing how well we celebrate our own local talent and come together to discuss the reads we've been passionate about. Whether it's in a twitter discussion, blog comment or in person, there's always a new recommendation to be found. 

Leave 3 clues for your santee below!

1. You are from a different state to me
2. You have a co-blogger

3. You're a big fan of tea

My Top 10 Bookish Recommendations for Christmas 2016

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas. The time of the year where avid readers make huge lists of what new titles they hope to find under the tree, and everyone else around them questions whether they REALLY need MORE books. Well:

Alongside the flashbacks of hearing 'All I Want for Christmas is You' on repeat, it's also the busiest period the year for us booksellers. I love being able to give recommendations at work to customers looking for that perfect bookish gift for their loved ones, and also seeing how people coming into the store strike up a conversation with each other on what they've read and enjoyed. In this post I'll be sharing some of my personal top picks and favourites. 

1) For the MG reader who loves a good Australian story which will warm your heart:

The Matilda Saga by Jackie French showcases the best of the Australian spirit, from Federation and beyond.

2) For the teen who wants a realistic contemporary about friendship that's perfect for summer:

Tara Eglington's latest release is a well-written, relevant and bitter-sweet story on the evolution of a friendship and young women finding the confidence that was within them all along.

3) For the teen who wants an addictive YA series with a sci-fi edge and intense twists:

Suspense, romance, action, evil organisations and rebelling against your own special DNA. Rachael Craw's SPARK series captivates with every installment, and always leaves you wanting more. 

4) For the teen who wants an emotional read about the bonds between families, and finding your true self:

Hardcastle deserves high praise for this debut which ebbs and flows with the intricacies of healing and coming up for air after being submerged in the depths of grief.

5) For YA feminist who wants a story about girls who won't back down:

Summer Skin pushes the boundaries regarding a portrayal of the subcultures which may be present in university life, and poses a refreshing storyline that is both emotionally charged and powerful.

6) For the adult feminist who wants a powerful story about survival and seeking retribution

The Natural Way of Things was certainly deserving of the Stella Prize this year. Equally harrowing and gripping, this is a book that will stay with you long after you've finished it. 

7) For the YA readers who want a witty and accurate portrayal of the challenges which come with the final year of high school:

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub is a brilliant novel where five different teens converge - with rather unexpected results. This is a read which is definitely relevant for the young adults of today. 

8) For the YA sci-fi fan who loves action set in space:

The Diabolic certainly doesn't shy away from the action, and is a gritty YA read which plays on the themes of manipulation and loyalty really well. Illuminae (and now Gemina) are told in such a unique way, also with bucket-loads of action to keep you hooked from start to finish. Finally, the Starbound trilogy offers three memorable novels which intertwine with different focal characters. 

9) For the pop-culture/gaming fan who wants a story filled with adventure:

Whether you're a gamer or not, I haven't come across anyone who hasn't loved this book (It definitely surprised me!). In a future where virtual reality is the norm and can be exploited, this story is one that you won't want to put down. 

10) For the bookish thrill-seekers who want to be on the edge of their seats

I've been reading more in the crime/thriller genre this year than ever before, and have come across some great reads with all the shocking situations and 'WOW' moments you could ask for. The Dry is Jane Harper's debut novel, and an impressive one which expertly depicts the impact of rumour and scandal shaking a rural Australian town. Emma Cline's first book is also a hit - beautifully written and yet haunting, a stark depiction of a loss of innocence. Girls on Fire is perhaps the most brazen of the bunch, venturing into territory you didn't think it would dare go, but it sure burns those boundaries down. Finally, Megan Abbott's works never fail to impress me, and You Will Know Me is no exception. Her prose is always on-point and whip-smart, this time unveiling the brooding malevolence in the world of elite gymnastics. 

Over to you! Have you read any of these books? What categories and novels would you suggest to add?

Review & Author Interview: The Price of Magic by KJ Taylor

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Price of Magic by KJ Taylor
Released: 24th November
Published by: Black Phoenix Publishing Collective
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Pages: 424
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
“You are here because you were born different. Born with a gift ... and a curse.”

Heroes come in all shapes. Upright, manly, sword-wielding…. Or small and weedy with walking sticks. Unless you look hard enough, you might miss these ones. Pip’s on a journey to find out just what he can do—in magic and in life. Big things are expected of him. . And he’s about to be tested Can he deliver?

This new Young Adult work by acclaimed Australian author KJ Taylor is a stand-alone novella about confronting our challenges and celebrating our differences. Meet Pip and Seress, Ana and Clemence, Jinx and Hex, and follow their quest to find and stop the mad mage who is threatening magic's very existence.

KJ Taylor asks us to think about the choices we make, and the price that we pay for them. For anyone who’s ever been intimidated by those around them, here's a heart-warming story of one boy who isn’t content to be defined by others.
Thank you to Black Phoenix Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Price of Magic is a unique read which not only encapsulates diversity within fantasy, but holds a heartwarming message at its core. Although not a full-length novel, this story is one which is features a richly imagined world where imperfections are accepted and a path can be followed to find your own magic.

From the beginning of the novella opening with the author's note, I saw that this was going to be a read that would be a memorable one. The concept that 'You are not a disability. You are not an illness. You are you. You are a person. Never be defined by what you cannot do, but instead embrace what you can do' really shone through in the storyline. Books which revolve around characters with disabilities are often susceptible to criticism, either for seemingly stereotyping or being unrealistic in the portrayal of the challenges people face. A large part of this novella's success in my opinion is treating this topic with both tact and a realistic element, within the framework of this magical world where those powers come with a 'Price'.

Our protagonist Pip was likable from the very beginning. Despite his crippled leg, his hopeful idealism and willingness to make the most of the opportunities presented to him were inspiring. The sense of adventure which follows his time at The Institute and beyond ensures that there is never a dull moment. This is a story which champions the underdog, and goes to show that just because someone is at first unassuming, they may hold far greater strength than you may first think.

In all, KJ Taylor's novella is well worth a read for YA fantasy fans. It cleverly depicts both the price to be paid for magic, and the true gift of finding that there is also something special to be found in every one of us.

Author Interview with KJ Taylor

How have your own personal experiences shaped your writing journey for The Price of Magic?

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which wasn’t diagnosed until I was sixteen. I’m happy and living a full life today, but I had some very hard times thanks to my… well, you can call it a disability if you like. I had a difficult childhood – I was bullied for being different, and believed I was “stupid”. I couldn’t relate to other kids, so I retreated into a fantasy world, where I made up little stories and played games by myself where I pretended to be other people – people who weren’t me, because I didn’t like being me. I loved creating things – drawing, painting, sewing, and writing little stories and poems. And people liked them! I also loved reading, because that was an escape too, so the time eventually came when I started writing novels of my own. I wanted to be a great author and prove my talent to the world (why hello there, self-esteem issues! Where on earth did you spring from, eh? ;) ). I managed to sell a novel to Scholastic when I was only 17, which was an incredible triumph for yours truly. But as I continued my new career as an author, I slowly stopped caring about proving myself. I stopped wanting to be famous, or rich.

I realised that what really mattered was that telling stories made me happy – but also that it made other people happy. I realised that being who and what I am means I have something to offer the world which others can’t. And that’s the message (well one of them) of The Price of Magic: that no matter who you are and what your troubles might be, everyone has something to offer. Never let anyone convince you that you’re not worth anything, and don’t let your troubles convince you of it either. The mages in this book are analogues for artists. They are driven by a passion to create things, as I was, and their difficulties are what help to motivate them, as mine have. And, like artists, they tend to be very solitary and sometimes jealous of each other (hence Aurelia’s poor behaviour in the early parts of the book).

What first made you want to create a story in the fantasy genre?

As a kid, and then as a teenager, I read a lot of fantasy, mostly YA fantasy (I never really graduated to reading fantasy aimed at adults). It was simply the genre I naturally gravitated to. I was one of those kids who believed in magic (or, at least, liked to pretend it was real). I think the genres we choose to write in are often a reflection of what sort of person we are. I’m a daydreamer who likes animals and isn’t interested in, say, outer space. Hence the ideas that come to  me are almost always fantastical in nature. So far I haven’t published anything that isn’t fantasy.

I found your portrayal of people who are facing particular challenges within themselves or have a disability in this novel quite a unique and powerful one. While this can be a sensitive topic in novels, how important was it for you to get the right message across?

Quite! I really didn’t want to upset anyone or imply that the sick and disabled are lesser human beings, which is of course not remotely true. However, I also didn’t want to sugarcoat anything, because that doesn’t help either. As a person who is in a sense mentally handicapped, there are few tropes that enrage me more than that of the “noble retard”, or the “inspirational cripple”. It’s disgusting. We are not here to inspire “normal” people to lead better lives – we are human beings in our own right. As a matter of fact, after I was diagnosed I was repeatedly asked to do something to “inspire” other people with Asperger’s, and I said “why should I be obliged to do that, just because I have the syndrome myself?”. My publicity campaign never mentioned it, and I never talked publicly about it until much more recently. I wasn’t looking to inspire anyone; I just wanted to do my own thing. Was I being selfish? Maybe; I don’t know. But why should people like me be obliged to inspire people? I found it rather insulting, honestly. Therefore, when it came to this book, I did what I always do when writing characters: I treated all of them as people first and foremost. There is no golden rule which states that the chronically ill or the disabled need to be portrayed as either “good” or “bad”, because all of them are human beings. You can have clinical depression and still be a huge jerk. You can be confined to a wheelchair and still be cruel to children. So while a good number of the characters have disabilities or chronic (in two cases, terminal) illnesses, they’re still just people when all is said and done.  

The worldbuilding was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. How did the idea for 'The Institute' come about?

I liked the idea of magic being treated as basically a business (a friend suggested it to me). One publisher complained that The Institute was too much like Hogwarts, but I think that’s unfair. Yes, young mages go there to learn, but the place isn’t a school. I was actually playing off the old tradition of mages/wizards taking on apprentices, so there are no classes – just one on one tutoring, and it’s more to do with learning a trade. And secondly, the Institute is also a kind of hospital/asylum (that’s why I called it that – it’s an institution). Mages are people who often need to be taken care of, so it’s in their best interests to live in a place where that care is available (it’s not really gone into, but they have plenty of qualified doctors in residence). But the Institute really isn’t good at handling mental illness (note how the depressed Seress is mostly just left alone, and others are dumped in padded cells, never to be seen again). I foresee a future in which Pip will essentially become a psychiatrist, helping others with their emotional troubles and teaming up with another character to grow new medicinal plants for treating mental illness. Antipsychotics, that sort of thing. If I ever write a sequel, you will see Pip do exactly that.  

Are there any other authors or books which influenced you when writing The Price of Magic?

Despite my earlier protestations, there definitely is a bit of Harry Potter inspiration present. Tone-wise I drew on my very first novel, The Land of Bad Fantasy (it was a parody/satire). I was almost certainly also influenced by Alan Marshall’s autobiography I Can Jump Puddles. Marshall was crippled by polio as a child and spent the rest of his life on crutches, but he never let it define his life and refused to be “the crippled kid” – he wanted to run and swim and fight and catch rabbits just like the other boys, and he did exactly that, and was highly insulted whenever people tried to shower him with pity for his “terrible affliction”. Now there’s an inspiring story! Other than that all I drew on was my own experiences – this is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to other aspiring authors out there?

Don’t write to succeed – write for its own sake. I won’t lie to you – this business is incredibly hard to get into, and just as hard to stay in. Therefore, focus on telling the stories only you can tell and worry about selling the things later.

After this brilliant novella, can you give a hint as to what you're writing at the moment? 

Aw shucks. J Several things, as a matter of fact! I’m never working on just one thing at a time. Some of the things I’m writing at the moment include a satirical novel about a CEO who slays vampires who are trying to stage a hostile takeover of his company, one about a girl who can transform into a winged lion teaming up with a phoenix shapeshifter to stop a secret society from taking over the country, a Bronze-age fantasy about a dinosaur-like creature with telepathic abilities and her human friend, the huntress who raised her. And a short story or two.

Thankyou so much for offering me this interview! As a little bonus, I thought I’d write out a list of what each character’s Price actually is:

Ollet “Pip” Gardener – deformed right leg, possible dwarfism
Aurelia – an unspecified terminal wasting disease
Byrne – Asperger’s Syndrome
Deodar – clinical anxiety
Seress – severe clinical depression
The villain – some kind of nerve condition which causes chronic pain (no wonder he/she is so pissed off. I would be)
Master Hystrix – alcoholism (probably stemming from some other issue he’s trying to drown with booze)
Master Auzerais – Prader-Willi syndrome (a condition which leaves the sufferer incapable of ever feeling full, so they don’t know when to stop eating)
Master Anathoth – Parkinson’s Disease

What do you love about YA fantasy?