Reign the Earth by A.C Gaughen

Release Date: January 2018

A fantastic start to a promising series!!!

This was one book that had me on the edge of my seat as I was gasping, cringing and rapidly turning the page to simply know what happened next. The plot was interesting as it follows the story of a young girl, Shalia, who is a proud yet naive daughter of the desert and after many years of war with another tribe/kingdom, she was used as a pawn via an arranged marriage with the king of the opposing tribe as a means to bring peace to both worlds. Shalia’s betrothed, Calix, the king, is motivated by a strong desire to kill all who identify as Elementae – magical people who have powers that can control the elements: earth, air, wind and fire.

So the question is, when two worlds become one family, what becomes of the proud, naive daughter of the desert when she is crowned queen as a result of this arranged marriage and learns of her new husband’s plans then later discovers her true self once she is thrown into this whole new world?

I found it was interesting to follow Shalia’s perspective during the story and how she grows as a character when taken out of her world of order and thrown into a world of chaos where, for her, it’s sink or swim – follow what is expected of her to retain peace or question everything, be true to herself and risk war. Does she thrive or just manage to survive?

This story is dark and it does take you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. For some of the themes covered, I would be more likely to recommend this to older YA readers, adults who enjoy fantasy fiction stories or who, like me, LOVE stories set in the desert. This had a great plot, is fast paced and it even confused me when I was trying to decide where my loyalties were during the story. I would love to read the sequel!!

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.


The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

A new Black Witch will rise… her powers vast beyond imagining…

“Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else. As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.” -Synopsis from Goodreads.

With such mixed reviews on this book, I just had to read it for myself as soon as possible. To be honest I really couldn’t understand the negativity surrounding it but then again that’s my opinion..

The best way I can explain my thoughts would be to use Harry Potter as an example. For those who have read Harry Potter, do you remember the prejudice in that world by “pure bloods” who would look down on “half bloods” and “muggles” or “muggle borns” and go as far as to say “mixture of magical and muggle blood is an abomination”? That was the sort of world I discovered here, a fantasy world where such prejudices exist and naturally the dialogue brought that out of each character and in doing so, profiled the characters quite well. I read each dialogue in context and understood it was typical of what that character or that particular race/group of people would say etc therefore the story and what was said in each dialogue made sense to me. I was able to draw a parallel with what I read in this book and conversations I hear in real life. Sad, but true and with all stories I read, I find nasty characters either grow to become good or are destroyed at the hands of good.

Overall I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed getting to know each character (even the ones I hate in the story) I particularly like the beginning where in a world of “status quo” the protagonist’s Uncle was the one person who puts his foot down against the concept of the “wandfast” at a young age (which is like an arranged marriage) in order for his niece to go on and get educated first by going to university and learning apothecary then make her own decision in life later on. Again – not very far from what I have heard in real life. There are more examples however I don’t wish to spoil the book for anyone and I would like readers to be their own judge of this book. Personally I liked it and I recommend it to fans of YA fantasy who enjoy stories of power struggle, magic and a whole new world building.

Many thanks to Harlequin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross + exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

Release Date: May 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

“I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both. I am the Beast. The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time. My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded. My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again. And now I might lose her forever.”

Firstly, we would like to give our special thanks to Hachette Publishers: Date A Book Team for an Advanced Review Copy we received at their exclusive Blogger Nighte and to author Leife Shallcross for being part of our personal read along journey and taking part in our exclusive blog interview. Such an exciting experience as we engaged in a read along with 2 amazing bloggers “Sydney Editor 1” and “Tien’s Blurb” who are also dear friends of ours and the author, Leife Shallcross herself! (Now a dear friend to us all) A lot of fun as we communicated spoiler free updates to each other and Leife sharing her writing experience and inspirations with us as we read along.

Our Thoughts
This was so beautifully written, I felt like I was reading a classical, melodic, fairytale with all the feels that really came to life in my mind!!! An amazing story that developed beautifully, fantastically well-defined characters, the author did such a great job in reimagining the tale that’s old as time and really took us deep into the heart of the beast. This is a story no one has heard before and a must read now. Beautiful writing and language, amazing characters you grow to love and a beast who I just want to hug!  Oh.. the love.. the feels.. for a first time in a very long time, I found this to be a book I needed to take a moment of silence for right at the end, it was that beautiful.
– Annie

This book is so beautifully written, you’ll feel the magic, the intricate storytelling, the love, all the feels that you can expect from a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I love that it’s set around about the 17th-century era, the restraint, the language and politeness all add to the charming storytelling. I love the characters, my fav has to be Marie. I’m also totally in love the Beast too as you’ll see everything from his perspective! This is a wonderful, magical and a timeless book and retelling. I only wish it came in hard copy as I feel I would be re-reading this book anytime I need to escape reality. There are so many parts that hit me right in the heart.
– NJ

Exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

What is the title of your debut novel and what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved fairy tales (I use them a lot in my writing), and I particularly love Beauty and the Beast because the two protagonists actually get to spend time falling in love. But one of the big story problems for me was always the question of how you make a romantic hero out of a man who has done something so awful that someone was compelled to put him under a curse for 100 years. So I wanted to explore that. I also wanted to create a fairy tale world I could just sink into and lose myself. My novel is The Beast’s Heart, and will be published by Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette) in May 2018. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective.

What sort of research goes into writing a book like this and how did you come up with the characters for your story? Were you reading other books or going online to search how one may dress at a particular time?
I did a fair bit of research into the historical details. There were so many little bits and pieces that I had to tweak to make them accurate! For example, in France in the 17th Century, people were usually married on the steps of the church, rather than inside at the altar (I didn’t know that before I started!) I did a lot of my research online, but obviously this means I had to be a bit careful about using reliable sources. Contemporary paintings are a great resource for things like food, clothes and table settings, but I had to bear in mind these were usually painted to hang in the houses of the rich and convey a sense of their wealth. I used original sources where I could (like church registers for names – it’s surprising how many are available on the net). My characters are mostly the ones you find in the usual B&B fairy tale, but I have tried to give them their own personalities, motivations and story arcs. I’ve added a few extra ones of my own devising, though!

If your book became a film adaptation, who would you cast to play your characters?
Such a tricky question! Perhaps Aidan Turner for the Beast. Or Theo James. And maybe Maisie Williams or Lily Collins for my heroine. I think you’d need someone very striking to play the Fairy. Perhaps Tilda Swinton or Eva Green?

Are you a reader yourself? What is your favourite genre and your favourite book?
Of course! I read a lot of fantasy and sci fi, and predictably I particularly love fairy tale retellings. I subscribe to the belief that before you can be a good writer, you have to be a devoted reader. But how am I supposed to choose a favourite book???? Argh! All time favourites include Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne-Jones, Beauty, by Robin McKinley and Red As Blood by Tanith Lee. Recent faves are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and the Shades of Magic series by V E Schwab. I could go on forever…

If you had the chance to create a soundtrack for “The Beast’s Heart” what would the track list look like?
Here’s a few:
-Green, by Alex Lloyd
-1000 Oceans, by Tori Amos
-Heartlines, by Florence & the Machine
-Photograph, by Ed Sheeran
-If Time is All I Have, by James Blunt.

During your writing journey, what was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Find your writing community (and it can’t just be any old writing community, it has to be the right one. Your writing community. Your tribe. People who are going to get what you’re trying to write.) Writing can be a very lonely business, and it’s not just about being a good writer. You have to know about the industry and how to be professional about your craft. I’ve learned so much invaluable stuff from the wonderful, generous people in my writing community (the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild). I don’t think I’d be here today without them.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

To simply call this a fairytale retelling would do this story an injustice.. This is a uniquely, magical story in its own right…

This would be one of the best books I have read this year… A story of mystery, identity, magical betrayal and intrigue.. A story of one crown – two women: Mina, whose heart is made of glass.. Lynet, who is made of snow.. both brought to life by a magician the kingdom is taught to fear..

A step-mother/step-daughter relationship based in a kingdom in need of only one queen. At sixteen years of age, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees their king for the first time, Mina makes it her mission to win the king’s heart through her beauty to become queen and finally know what love is. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother to Lynet, who at aged fifteen, is the  splitting image of her late mother but one day Lynet discovers why… A magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order but rather than filling the shoes of her late mother, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. What started as a bond between step-mother and step-daughter may soon become a fight to the death for the crown…

 I gave this book a standing ovation. This story takes you into a whole new world of twists, turns and mystery whicht left me gaping, page turning and confused as to which character had my allegiance. This story had fantastic world building and was mildly paced so it allowed me to immerse myself into this new world as well as the character development but the suspensful plot got the heart pumping and captivated me to the very end!!! Such an amazing story and I highly recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings (although I find this book is more than that) and fans of YA Fantasy Fiction… This is on the shelf as one of the best of 2017!!!

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer

The first installment of “The Oremere Chronicles” this is a gripping fantasy series of epic proportions!!!

Heart of Mist is a dark and interesting tale set in a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power. Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital. But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.

I found this lived up to its initial pitch – it really was an interesting and dark tale of a woman’s lonely journey through self-destruction, loss but finally owning her own destiny. An intense story that is action packed but doesn’t flow too quickly for the reader. There’s a great balance between an intense story line, well defined characters and action in a world of fantasy fiction. I am not a fan of e-books so this took me awhile to read but I really made an effort to read this as I found the premise to be very promising and the concept of the main character, Bleak’s, forbidden magic captivated me. Imagine having a power so forbidden because you’re in a realm where magic is forbidden and the only way to manage your day to day activity is through drowning your power with alcohol. I really enjoyed this book now I will find a hardcopy and re-read it!!! This is very well written and the world building was so well done it doesn’t bore you. If anything, it held my attention.

Many thanks to author, Helen Scheuerer for giving me an Advanced Review E-Copy in exchange for my honest review.

My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: Allen and Unwin Publishers

An interesting book that I flew through in a matter of hours.

What starts off with character profiling and world building, I thought this would be a crime/thriller – a case of ‘who done it’? – however, it sends you on a rollercoaster ride to something completely different.

The book is told in various perspectives however it focuses on Jazmin Little who has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared – however, Becky didn’t just disappear – she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground!!! Like she simply vanished into thin air!! Since Becky’s disappearance, the question remains – did Jazmin have something to do with her friend’s disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus? an infamous character you get to know as you read the book.

A short book approx. 215 pages, It had a futuristic Frankenstien vibe to this story. The characters’ voices were projected quite well throughout the story though some of the dialogue got a little annoying – I guess teenagers communicate a little differently these days. As the story goes on, I found myself turning the page wanting to know what happens next and where all of this “mess” was coming from. I can definitely see a sequel coming out of this one. I liked the plot and how we get to know each character by the page – the story isn’t an info dump, it progresses and the plot thickens at each turn. I recommend this to fans of YA Sci-Fi and Thrillers.

Special thanks to Allen dnd Unwin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

How would you react if your father asked you to become a ghost bride? Would you agree if it meant a future of prosperity

This would have to be listed as one of my favourite reads for 2017!!!

Though ruled by British overlords in Colonial Malaya, the Chinese Malayans hold ancient customs, values and superstitions close to heart. Set in the sleepy port town of Malacca, this takes us back to the 1880’s and follows the story of Li Lan, our female protagonist and the daughter of a genteel yet bankrupt family with few prospects. Li Lan receives an unusual proposal from a wealthy and influential family – the Lims – who propose she become a ghost bride for their late and only son who recently died under mysterious circumstances. An ancient custom, becoming a ghost bride was said to placate a restless spirit and guarantee prosperity for the bride – but what happens when this restless spirit starts to haunt the potential ghost bride? What happens when rather than following regular protocols to rid a restless spirit from the human world, Li Lan embarks on a journey that leads her to a peculiar supernatural cross over.

Exploring old Malayan folklore, superstitions and intertwining of Malaysian culture with true historical events – this haunting, dark yet fascinating tale kept me turning the page to the very end! I was captivated from the first chapter and I strongly recommend this to fans of Frances Watts’ “The Peony Lantern”

Many thanks to Allen and Unwin Publishers who gave a copy to me as a prize for a competition I won.

This is one great book!!!