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!!!

-Annie

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The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

As the founder of a major network of readers, I can say I can relate to this book. When living in a crazy world, going through hardships of your own, finding friendship with avid readers through a bond which is our love for reading truly is refreshing. Personally I’m more of a YA reader however I really enjoyed this book for adult readers given the themes covered in this book and the setting. It’s said to suit those who loved “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” and “The Thorn Birds.”

This book is set in the Northern Territory during the 1970’s at a time of calamity – Cyclone Tracy almost wiped Darwin off the map and telecommunications have yet to be revived. A bomb exploded outside of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney killing 3 people and Former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies dies.

I refer to this book as historical fiction due to the accurate reference to special events that took place in the 70’s. I enjoyed the intricate breakdown of each character that helped us get to know the character: Sybil, Sallyanne, Rita, Kate and Della at my own pace. What also kept me hanging to the end was how each of these women have their own hardships and stories to tell yet in a story of pain, there is the story of hope when friendships are formed over their love of books.

Highly recommended to fans of adult fiction set in Australia – not necessarily for just women. May also be of interest to those who lived in the 70’s.

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

And I Darken by Kiersten White

This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed from page 1. The plot was so intriguing and although this is an alternative history story, I can see the immense research the author put into this book.

Taking us back to the era of the Ottoman Empire, this book follows a female protagonist one may consider cruel and brutal, though if you were a Princess who was abandoned by their father to be raised in Ottoman Sultan’s courts and living in a world where women did not have rights, I guess I can understand Lada Dragwyla’s character. Ruthlessness is her key to survival, especially when her lineage has made her and her brother targets in this cruel world.

As the story progresses, Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and her brother Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes!!! The characters were so well defined which made the story so great. Lada was the ruthless one, Radu is struggling to be true to himself and Mehmed is the misunderstood son of the Sultan that Lada plans to seek vengeance on.

Personally, I found the plot intriguing even the strain between Radu, Lada and Mehmed wasn’t cliché, it was interesting given the year and time it was set in. I found the alternative history setting very thorough and I was especially excited to see accurate Islamic representation in this book through the dialogue as the characters discussed the 5 pillars of Islam, prayers and even the Umrah/Hajj pilgrimage!! This is the first of an epic trilogy and I am really excited to read the sequel, “Now I Rise” as soon as possible.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

fantastic sequel that was just as epic as its debut!!!

“When two imperfect people come together, they make a perfect whole…”

“Nothing is more remote than yesterday, nothing is closer than tomorrow..”

In a nut shell.. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

This story continues from where we left off in the The Crown’s Game and we return to the characters I love so much.. Vika, Nikola and Pasha.. For those who read the first book, you remember what happened to these guys? (Really don’t want to give any spoilers here) Like book 1, book 2 kept me on the edge of my seat however I found this story to have even more mystery, intrigue and action!! The Crown’s Game focused on the building of alternate Russia and gave us insight into how The Crown’s Game worked – where enchanters entered into a competitive battle to win the position of Imperial Enchanter. However, now.. we look at the burning question – what happens when it’s not about fighting for the position of Imperial Enchanter anymore? It’s a fight for the throne…

Written so incredibly well, the story flowed amazingly even with various storylines. I absolutely loved the accurate referencing to Russian history within a fantasy story of magic set in alternate Russia. It’s definitely one of those books you can tell the author put a lot of thought, plan and research into it. I can officially say this book is another 2017 favourite!!

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Book of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle

Elegant and Sophisticatedly Complex

This would have to be one of the best books I have read this year!!!

A compelling story of a first love that defines a lifetime which is told with an intricate and beautiful writing style.

The main character who we get to know as the story progresses is Joshua Pearl. He is from a world that our own no longer believes in – a world of Fairytale. Pearl knows that his great love is waiting for him in that distant place but he is trapped in our time. As his memories begin to fade, he discovers strange objects, tiny fragments of a story from a long time ago that help in piecing his life back together.

What I liked about this story is how unique it was – the storyline and how it was so cleverly written.  As Joshua Pearl is trying to piece together his memories to circle back to the one he loves after being thrown from his own world to our world, I felt just as confused as Pearl but each chapter develops – each fragment, pieces together a puzzle that guided me to the next part of the story and so on, which finally came together with an answer!!! A tale intertwines fantasy with historical fiction finding you going through the stages of World War II. This was such an absorbing read.

I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, historical fiction and YA fantasy.
-Annie

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens) by Alison Weir

An intense, refreshing and intriguing account of life as Anne Boleyn

Expected publication: 18 May 2017

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession takes on a new intense, sympathetic perspective on Anne Boleyn’s life. In particular, the author explored a refreshing feminist perspective where Anne was a heroine in her own right – using her powers to influence social policies of the day and using her charm and wit to gain the favour of Henry VIII. What I enjoyed most about this novel is that whilst the story is overall sympathetic to Anne Boleyn, it was told in a believable way. The author added layers to her personality by showing that Anne Boleyn was an imperfect, ambitious woman who is also fragile and insecure throughout her life as mistress and then Queen of Henry VIII. This book chronologically accounts Anne Boleyn’s life from the glamorous French Court where she served as lady in waiting, to her time in the English Court where she ensnared the lust and obsession of Henry VIII. It accounts all her struggles against Queen Katherine (Henry VIII’s first wife) and daughter Mary, the harrowing path to become the new but much hated Queen of England and ending with her well-known downfall. Overall, it’s a long but intriguing read about what life would have been like as Anne Boleyn who was portrayed as a progressive and spirited woman. A woman who had to choose between love and power, faith and desire, passion and duty. There was substantial research done by the author to make this book an authentic read. I recommend this book for historical fiction lovers!

– NJ

A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart

 War is a terrible part of the worlds history but it’s a story that needed to be told. 
A beautiful heartbreaking story about the heroes of the war, the men and women who supported behind the scenes and the brave who reported it.
During a time when women’s rights were still a foreign concept in Italy Rebecca Quinn faced it all and all without her husband (who left her with little to no notice to go off chasing a story). I felt for her and cringed while she faced judgement from the men who still believed that women should just go tend their houses, my heart cried out for Sandro who I loved right until the final pages, my anger at Jack for leaving Rebecca to become so incredibly independent in a world that rejected such independence didn’t sit well with me and his betrayal of her trust was just the last straw. Rebecca showed that despite the fear and rejection she faced that she could still hold it together when it counted and could be courageous in the face of dangers that most women today wouldn’t imagine leaving themselves in a position to experience.
 An incredibly inspiring character and a story that melted my heart and gave me a new opinion of war themed books.
Many thanks to Hachette Publishers for the opportunity to read this Advanced Review Copy.
-Crystal