Before the Beginning: #loveozya Review

The story of four friends, a mysterious stranger, and the week when everything changed. For fans of We Were Liars.

Schoolies week: that strange in-between time when teenagers move from school into the adult world. It’s a week when anything is possible, and everything can change.

Grace is questioning everything she thought about herself, and has opted not to join her clique of judgemental friends for schoolies, instead tagging along with her brother Casper and his friends. Casper, an artist, is trying to create the perfect artwork for his uni application folio. Overachieving, anxiety-ridden Noah is reeling from a catastrophe that might have ruined his ATAR result. And Elsie is just trying to figure out how to hold their friendship group together.

On the first night of the trip, they meet Sierra, a mysterious girl with silver-grey hair and a magnetic personality. All of them are drawn to her for different reasons, and she persuades them to abandon the cliched schoolies experience in favour of camping with her on a remote, uninhabited island. On that island, each of them will find answers to their questions. But what does Sierra want from them?

An empathetic and suspenseful coming-of-age story from the author of All That Impossible Space.


Before the Beginning by Anna Morgan, published September 29th, 2020. I received a review copy from Hachette via the #AusYABloggers – Thank You! 

Anna Morgan’s writing captured me from the first page. I loved this book way more than I was expecting to. I went into this book thinking it was a contemporary coming of age tale, it is that, but it is also so much more. My Rating: ✵✵✵✵✵

This “schoolies” story is split up into five parts and is told through multiple points of view as the plot progresses.

The first narrator we meet is Grace. She is extremely endearing, and I was immediately drawn to her. Grace is at a point in her life where she is finding her church and her friend group does not fit her anymore (hence why she is spending schoolies with her brother’s mates). Nothing makes me happier than normalised sexual diversity, so Grace getting to have her first girl on girl kiss on the island and getting to journey with her as her entire world shifts, was bliss. While we are inside Grace’s head, we find out how lost and alone she is feeling. But also, how worried she is for her brother’s future too, even if for the most part he treats her dismissively and she always feels she has to compete with him and make up for his shortcomings.

The second narrator we meet is Noah. Oh, what a beautiful Bubba Boy. I just wanted to hug Noah and take him to therapy. This kid made the mother in me rear up, I wanted to help this kid. I wanted to nurture this kid. I saw a lot of my eldest son in Noah and it made my heartache. The poor bub has crippling anxiety and is way too hard on himself. He is super smart and a total sweetheart. While we are inside Noah’s head, we find out how pressure is on him to succeed and we see him crumble and break – thankfully he has good mates to help put him with some much-needed RNR and moral support.

The third narrator we meet is Casper at just around the halfway mark of the story. I really did not like Casper until I got to be in his head. He tends to get lost in his own head, losing track of the real world, and sometimes really struggles to get out and is left feeling a little out of sync. With the end of his chapters, we get to experience him realising what a dick he had been, but also the story really ramps up in suspense and action.

The fourth narrator we meet is Elsie. Oh Elsie, she is trying to get over her crush on her bestie, trying to figure out what she wants to do after school, who she wants to be, and trying to hold her group of friends together. Elsie and Grace were quite standoffish at first and I loved seeing their friendship grow.

For the fifth and final part of the story narration swaps back to Grace.

I have talked about the others, so now I must mention the last of all the main characters, the one who pushes the plot along to its flaring conclusion, but does not get to narrate the story. The one teen who was a stranger to the rest of them in the beginning. Oh, Sierra! Is she the ghost of a girl who died on Shearwater Island, or just a copycat using her name, or is she something else, perhaps a mythical creature from the sea? I do not want to tell you what I think about who or what Sierra is (I changed my mind a few times along the way). I want you to meet her and make up your own mind.

This book touches on faith, sexuality, sibling rivalry, growing up, the pressure put on kids relating to final exams, and picking the perfect careers. Each of the four friends’ journeys was beautiful, full of reflection and personal growth, their time on the island only strengthening their bonds of friendship.

BEFORE THE BEGINNING is a phenomenal read, a cut above the rest, and it will stay with you for quite some time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anna was born in Sydney, but spent most of her childhood surrounded by mountains in Nepal and Tibet while her parents were part of an international community of health professionals. Navigating this cross-cultural life made her a curious observer of people, although most of her time was spent reading Enid Blyton and dreaming of going to boarding school. This did not cushion the shock of shifting from home-school in Tibet to an all-girls high school in Melbourne when her family returned to Australia. All That Impossible Space explores some of the intense and convoluted friendships that thrive in this setting. Anna completed a MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University in 2015, and now lives in Melbourne with her husband. She works as a bookseller.
Thanks for visiting sarahfairbairn.com 🙂
Until next time, enjoy your shelves 🙂

The Secret Life of Stars: Review

We all know the Sun, the powerhouse of our solar system, but what about Luyten’s Flare, the Rosino-Zwicky Object or Chanal’s variable star? For those whose curiosity takes them far beyond Earth’s atmosphere, The Secret Life of Stars offers a personal and readily understood introduction to some of the Galaxy’s most remarkable stars.

Each chapter connects us to the various different and unusual stars and their amazing characteristics and attributes, from pulsars, blue stragglers and white dwarfs to cannibal stars and explosive supernovae. With chapter illustrations by Eirian Chapman, this book brings to life the remarkable personalities of these stars, reminding readers what a diverse and unpredictable universe we live in and how fortunate we are to live around a stable star, our Sun.


A book on Astrophysics aimed at teens, yes please! Science was one of my favourite classes in high school (that and Art & Drama, yes, yes, strange mix I know).

From the moment Lisa introduced herself at the start, just the vibe I got from reading her introduction, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I was going to love this book or the intense pull it would awaken in me to stop, slow down, and gaze up at the stars with a reinvigorating sense of wonder.

Before taking a stroll around the known universe one Star at a time, The Secret Life of Stars kicks off close to home, talking about the bringer of our life, the marvel that is our sun.

“At around 6 billion years old, the sun is in the middle age of her life. And before you ask, yes, the sun is a woman. How do I know? She holds down a steady job (heating and lighting the solar system), provides for a family of eight and hasn’t taken a holiday in 4.6 billion years.”

All hail the sun!!! and a high five and hug to Lisa, a woman showing up for girls in Science!

The pure love and worship of the universe around us and all the infinite number of stars in existence shines through in Lisa’s sometimes humous, always fascinating words.

Lisa has written an informative and interesting delve into the universe around us in an easily accessible way. Ha, maybe if they wrote textbooks like this more kids would be entranced by not only Astrophysics and Astrology, but Sciences as a whole!

I have been in a reading funk lately, struggling to focus on fictional tales and The Secret Life of Stars was a like an invigorating dip in the ocean, or use a different analogy, like a breath of fresh air. It is a perfect conversation starting coffee table book, a perfect read a little here and there book, and it is also engaging enough to read in a cover to cover marathon. I kept finding myself reading passages out loud to my other half Shane. The Secret Life of Stars has rekindled a stargazing passion for us both. And has us intending to save up for a decent telescope and muck around with Astro-Photography to make use of our old SLR in the meantime.

Who would like this book: This book may have been aimed at teens in its conception, but at 33 I can tell you it’s not just for teens. Maybe you know a stargazer, a dreamer, a sci-fi lover, a lover of all things science, or even a lover of travel – maybe it’s you – then The Secret Life of Stars would make a fantastic special treat, birthday or Chrissy gift.

There isn’t much more I can say, so I will leave you with this quote: “Every atom of iron on planet Earth was made inside a star. That goes for every atom of iron in your blood, too… Next time you look at your veins, or use a compass, or don’t die in a shower of lethal cosmic radiation, be grateful to the unnamed relic of a cosmic behemoth who gave its life that we might live. Our ancestor star, our gentle giant of the skies.”


Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, astronomer, author and Women in STEM ambassador looks up at the moon.Lisa Harvey-Smith is an award-winning astronomer and Professor at the University of New South Wales. She has a talent for making complicated science seem simple and fun. Lisa is a regular on national tv/radio/media and has appeared in several TV series and documentaries as a guest scientist and is a presenter alongside Prof. Brian Cox on ABC TV’s Stargazing Live. 

image2194In 2018 she was appointed as the Australian Government’s Ambassador for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). As an Ambassador Lisa is responsible for increasing the participation of women and girls in STEM studies and careers across Australia. She is also a vocal advocate for building inclusive workplaces for LGBTQI+ scientists.

Find out more about Lisa here > https://lisaharveysmith.com/biography

Links: Goodreads | Thames & Hudson Australia & Lisa’s Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Follow the Australian Bloggers tour HERE.

Thanks for visiting sarahfairbairn.com 🙂
Until next time, enjoy your shelves 🙂