The Last Balfour by Cait Duggan

Iona Balfour’s life is turned upside down when her beloved aunt Grizel is executed for the crime of witchcraft. Before she dies, Grizel appoints Iona as guardian of a precious family bloodstone and tells her she must flee their village and deliver the stone to the mysterious Guild of the Green Lion.

Accompanied by a new friend, Cal, Iona soon realises that she’s awakened the powers of the bloodstone. But it promises to be a perilous journey. The wolf month is no time to be on the road. And there’s a witch hunter on Iona’s trail, who has a strange obsession with the stone.

When a devastating betrayal throws her into the hands of her enemies, Iona soon finds herself in the fight of her life. Will she suffer the same fate as her aunt, or will she escape the witch hunter and fulfil her destiny?

This was a very interesting and insightful historical fantasy story that took me to historical Scotland at a time where witches were burnt at the stake and folk lore was at its peak. It was quite an engaging and interesting story to follow I enjoyed it from beginning to end and I was able to connect with Grizel, our main character and felt her fears, sadness and intensity especially when it came to her sisters Iona and Ishbel. I also enjoyed the clever way the plot unfolded and as well as the characters we met along the way – how their roles intertwined with Scottish folk lore. I can tell thorough research went into the setting, time and legends and it was written very well.

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers Australia for sending me a copy of this book for review and for also helping us organise for Cait Duggan to join us as special guest author at our last session, hearing about Cait’s writing journey, Scottish folk-lore and how she managed to blend historical fiction and historical fantasy was truly fascinating. Refer to Read3r’z Re-Vu social media platforms for pics.

Annie

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

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati – Blog Tour

Obstetrician Dr Sophie Savard returns home to the achingly familiar rhythms of Manhattan in the early spring of 1884 to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. With the help of Dr Anna Savard, her dearest friend, cousin, and fellow physician, she plans to continue her work aiding the disadvantaged women society would rather forget.

As Sophie sets out to construct a new life for herself, Anna’s husband, Detective Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte calls on them both to consult on two new cases: the wife of a prominent banker has disappeared into thin air, and the corpse of a young woman is found with baffling wounds that suggest a killer is on the loose.

In New York it seems that the advancement of women has brought out the worst in some men. And soon Sophie and Anna are drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse . . .

A well written historical fiction novel and a great sequel to the first book: The Gilded Hour.  At first I was skeptical on whether I would have the time to read this in time for the blog tour but the mystery and the character dynamic between Sophie and Anna are quite impressive. I like how in the time this book is written, both characters are quite smart and strong. I also enjoyed the blend of historical and crime however the plot twists and the depth of the plot really caught my attention. The historical aspect of this book really took me back in time and it was a nice change of pace from what I normally read.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me a copy of this book for review and for having me on board for the blog tour.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the first book – this series is definitely worth investing in:

Annie

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

In Russia’s struggle with Napoleon, Tolstoy saw a tragedy that involved all mankind. Greater than a historical chronicle, War and Peace is an affirmation of life itself, `a complete picture’, as a contemporary reviewer put it, `of everything in which people find their happiness and greatness, their grief and humiliation’. Tolstoy gave his personal approval to this translation, published here in a new single volume edition, which includes an introduction by Henry Gifford, and Tolstoy’s important essay `Some Words about War and Peace’

“…man’s greatest happiness lies in struggling to achieve them [truth and goodness]. We must live, love and believe.” – Tolstoy

This novel has taken up four and half months to finish reading. It’s hard to write a short review for such a long book but I must say that I’m glad I read it.

My book has tags all throughout the book because there were so many moments where the writing resonated with me. This book may appear to be about the Napoleonic War in Russia, but it is actually more about life, the lack of control we have or felt (during war and peace), it explores the meaning and purpose of life and an in-depth exploration of the human condition during times of war, and peace. I enjoyed each of the character’s reflection on their life and choices. Parts of the novel contains Tolstoy’s point of view in an almost essay form, which is very un-novel like. I was surprised by how liberally Tolstoy used his narrator’s voice in the book to share his views about the war and life in general.

It was an interesting read despite being someone who doesn’t really like war themed books, however I can see why this is a very important and relevant novel to read as it contains many great reflections on life, war, happiness and purpose.

-NJ

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

Moving between Imperial China and France during the ‘Terror’ of the French Revolution and inspired by the true story of the quest for a blood-red rose.

Viviane de Faitaud has grown up alone at the Chateau de Belisama-sur-le-Lac in Brittany, for her father, the Marquis de Ravoisier, lives at the court of Louis XVI in Versailles. After a hailstorm destroys the chateau’s orchards, gardens and fields an ambitious young Welshman, David Stronach, accepts the commission to plan the chateau’s new gardens in the hope of making his name as a landscape designer.
David and Viviane fall in love, but it is an impossible romance. Her father has betrothed her to a rich duke who she is forced to marry and David is hunted from the property. Viviane goes to court and becomes a maid-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette and a member of the extended royal family. Angry and embittered, David sails away from England with Lord Macartney, the British ambassador, who hopes to open up trade with Imperial China.

In Canton, the British embassy at last receives news from home, including their first reports of the French Revolution. David hears the story of ‘The Blue Rose’, a Chinese fable of impossible love, and discovers the blood-red rose growing in the wintry garden. He realises that he is still in love with Viviane and must find her.

Viviane escapes the guillotine and returns to the ruin of Chateau de Belisima to rebuild her life. David carrying a cluster of rosehips finds her there, and together they decide to grow the fabled red rose of China in France.

This book was so beautifully written and I am so humbled to have received an advance copy of this book which helped me prepare for the in conversation I hosted with Kate the other week. I would rate this 4.5 stars. Once again, Kate weaved an intricate story that blended history with a beautiful fairytale that became a unique tale about overcoming boundaries, acceptance and unconditional love. It was fascinating to learn about the cruelty of the world in 1700 and the parallel between France and China. The connection between our favourite characters David and Vivianne truly warmed my heart.

-Annie

Beautifully written. I loved how all the elements of the story are tied in so well together, from the commonalities between the Imperial France and Imperial China, the French Revolution and the class system, to the characters and their encounters. I felt the storytelling was masterful. In true Kate Forsyth style, this novel drew inspiration from the Blue Rose fairy-tale from China with the central themes of achieving impossible love, freedom and hope through the symbol of the blood red rose. What I enjoyed most about this book is the exploration of freedom and how it is presented in both the ancient fairy-tale and through the French Revolution. In particular, freedom to choose who you love, freedom to live the life you want, and freedom to be who you want to be. It also presents an insight into imperial China. Kate Forsyth has done massive research into Imperial China and has respectfully represented the differences in cultures and understanding, as well as used symbolism to weave a thoughtful and delicate love story set during turbulent times of the French Revolution. The writing is elegant and thoughtful, each chapter engaging and takes the reader on an immersive journey. Highly recommended.
-NJ

With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending us an Advanced Review Copy of this book.

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Although Nahri can wield power, she has never believed in magic and on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent – the ability to swindle Ottoman nobles under the guise of palm readings, healings but when Nahri accidentally summons a djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. Behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, old resentments are simmering and when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal.

This is my 2018 book love!!! From start to finish, I absolutely loved this book, I really enjoyed the incredible, magical, fast paced world building as well as the dialogue between the characters we come to meet throughout the story. I also loved the historical aspects of the book and the accurate referencing to King Sulaiman, Djinn (or Daeva), The Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Turkey. With it, the developing story line kept me on the edge of my seat and a few times I thought I managed to predict what will happen next – I was wrong. I also found with this book that it was one of those books I wanted to immerse myself in so much that I took my time to read it – and by the time I got to the end of the story, I just had to pay it a moment of silence before I could go on. Every chapter I was reading, there was something happening, I also loved how well defined the characters were and how each character made you question your loyalty in the book (whose side are you on in this new, political world).

An historical/urban fantasy suitable to older YA and adult readers – a story full of magic, intrigue and mystery, I give this under-hyped debut novel a 10/10 and I really can’t wait for the next instalment!!!

Publisher: Harper Voyager

-Annie

Thankyou 2017… That’s a Wrap!!!

As I am sitting here writing this 2017 wrap up, I am wondering – where did the year go!?
2017 was once again, a great success for Read3r’z Re-Vu and in 2018, we will be entering our 9th year!!! Next to getting our hands on some fantastic reads this year, a most honourable achievement is how much we have grown as a network. Read3r’z Re-Vu continue to network with authors, publishers and reading enthusiasts who become such great friends and it’s amazing to see the growth and the friendships formed over a common bond – the passion for reading. It’s been so much fun at our monthly sessions hanging out with well read friends and getting to know authors and their writing journeys. Attending bookish events and book launches throughout the year was also a highlight.

Many thanks goes to the authors who spent their time with us this year by attending our sessions and exclusive events as special guests. It gave members such a unique and memorable experience. Many thanks to Krystal Sutherland (author of “Our Chemical Hearts” and A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares”) who was the first author to join us this year as she joined us as special guest for our March session and who also had me emcee her book launch for “A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares” at Kinokuniya Bookstore.

Many thanks also to E.R Murray (author of “Caramel Hearts”) who, whilst visiting Australia all the way from Ireland, had a special lunch with us at Volcanos Steakhouse. It was amazing to learn all about your writing journey and life in Ireland.

To author Garth Nix, (author of newly released “Frogkisser!” thank you for joining our Read3r’z Re-Vu special: Author in Focus session at Galaxy Bookshop. We had so much fun with you that day, thanks so much for the Haigh’s Chocolate Frogs and for giving away Frogkisser! audio books and an advance review copy of “Have Sword, Will Travel

Lynette Noni, (author of “The Medoran Series“) thank you so much for spending time with us over high tea while you were in Sydney during the Sydney Writers Festival. We had such a great time chatting over tea and cakes with you!!

To Wai Chim (author of “Freedom Swimmer”) thank you so much for joining us for our July session, it was so insightful learning about your inspiration to write Freedom Swimmer.

James Bradley (author of “The Silent Invasion”) thankyou to you also for joining us as special guest at our September session, it was great to chat all things books with you!!!. Many thanks also goes to author Brittany Riley, author of (“Enchantment”) who also joined our September session as an attendee. To Gabrielle Williams (author of “My Life as a Hashtag”) lunch with you at the New York Metro was amazing, thank you so much for joining us while you were visiting Sydney from Melbourne.

To Marita Smith (author of “Convergence”) and the wonderful Harbour Publishing House team who visited Read3r’z Re-Vu over afternoon tea at The Coffee Club all the way from Ulladulla – thankyou also Marita for the homemade cookies!!

 Special shout out goes to our creative partner – The Curio Boutique, created and owned by the ever so talented NJ!!! Thank you so much for partnering with Read3r’z Re-Vu and sponsoring prizes from The Curio Boutique for our session giveaways. We are so honoured to be such great friends with you and we are so proud of your creativity and talents!!! Also, big congrats to you for hosting your very first stall this year at the Allen and Unwin YA Fest!! It was very exciting to be there to support you and we hope to see you running more stalls in the future and really look forward to your 2018 creations.

To all the publishers who take a chance on us to consider, read and review their books as well as help organise for the authors to attend our sessions, thank you so very much!!! It’s great to be affiliated with great Australian Publishers and we really look forward to continue working with you in the New Year.

Read3r’z Re-Vu Members – session attendees, online members and blog followers, thank you so much for always engaging with us and for your enthusiasm that keeps this network alive!! 2017 was a great year for books and here is a list of titles some of our session members have noted to be their 2017 book of the year…

NJ: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor
Meredith: “Autoboyography” by Christina Lauren
Lyn: “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
Monica: “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer and “Bitter Greens” by Kate Forysth
Allison: “The Hidden Legacy Series” by Ilona Andrews
Rebecca: “Keys of the Kingdom” series by Garth Nix and “The Silent Invasion” by James Bradley
Sarah: “Demian” by Hermann Hesse

As for me.. like everyone else.. it really is a tough choice!!! Nevermoor” by Jessica Townsend was such a great read.. so was “Wreck” by Fleur Ferris, “All Rights Reserved” by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, “The Crown’s Fate” by Evelyn Skye.. “Flying Through Clouds” by Michelle Morgan had a very personal connection for me.. Just some of the great titles I had the pleasure of reading this year and I am psyched for the 2018 new releases!!!

From the bottom of my heart, I want to send you all much love and many thanks to you all for making Read3r’z Re-Vu, the 2017 season such a great success!!! Wishing you all the very best for the festive season and many happy returns for a happy new year!!!

Well, 2017… that’s a wrap!!!
-Annie
xoxoxoxo
(Founder)

new year – new books – more for our TBR!!!

featured image: Pintrest