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.

The Pride and Prejudice Special

“I cannot fix the hour or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun…’
-Darcy

Pride and Prejudice was my first ‘adult’ classic that I read and watched – it is one of my all time favourites and since reading the original, I branched out into the Pride and Prejudice re-tellings. Here are some I love and highly recommend…

Pemberley Quaking by Melanie Schertz

In November of 1795, an earthquake struck Derby shire. Trapped in the basement of the mercantile in Lambton are Gerald Darcy, his son Fitzwilliam, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. What will happen in the wake of the earthquake?

This was an interesting take on Pride and Prejudice. Fitizwilliam Darcy and his father meet Elizabeth and Aunt Gardeners fathers store where she is helping out. Darcy Snr knows that Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam are perfect for each other and forces them to marry after the earthquake! With the twist that happened in Pemberley Quaking, I didn’t see it coming..

Darcy’s Midsummer Madness by Cass Grix

There is nothing like a love potion to make a party interesting. Caroline Bingley schemes to make Mr. Darcy fall in love with her, but her plans are thwarted by a mischievous footman who puts her love potion in the pastries served at the Netherfield Ball. This sets off a series of romantic misadventures.

Mr. Darcy is falling for Elizabeth Bennet and she begins to fall for him, but will their love last beyond midnight?

Darcy’s Midsummer Madness is a whimsical Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella based on Jane Austen’s most famous couple and loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. What fools these Mortals be!

Pride and Prejudice and a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream have joined to bring us a tale about Netherfield Ball. Let the gaiety ensure. Darcy’s Midsummer Madness is told from multiple characters point of view. So you get into their mid set when certain events happen (looking at you Caroline Bingley).

Much Ado About Darcy by Jane Grix

A rainstorm prevents Fitzwilliam Darcy from giving Elizabeth Bennet a letter after his botched proposal, so they part ways with their misunderstandings bitter and unresolved. They hide their passions behind a war of wit until some well-meaning friends conspire to bring them together.

Much Ado About Darcy is an Austen and Shakespeare Mash-up, a Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella set in the Regency era.

Much Ado About Nothing meets Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are in the roles of Beatrice and Benedict and they play their roles well. This is a quick and fun read.

Fair Stands the Wind by Catherine Lodge

We all know that in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy is proud and prejudiced because he is a wealthy landowner who believes himself above his company; and that Elizabeth Bennet can afford to be proud and prejudiced because she believes she has the freedom to make choices for herself.

But what if Mr Darcy is the second son, sent to sea at a young age? What if Elizabeth is trapped by circumstances, with an ill father on one side and an understandably desperate mother on the other?

Meet Captain Darcy of the Royal Navy, a successful frigate captain, with ample prize-money and a sister he needs to provide for while he is at sea. Meet Elizabeth Bennet, who needs a husband and is trying to resign herself to Mr Collins, the worst “least worst alternative” in the history of literature.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is the second son of the family. His father sent him to the Navy when he was nine years old. Fitizwilliam is now a well respected navy captain. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s marriage starts off as a convient one.. But it doesn’t necessarily end as it started… or does it???

The Perfect Gift: A Pride and Prejudice Novella by Christie Capps

TIMELESS ROMANCE FOR THE BUSY READER

On the path to love, will Elizabeth ever catch up?

In this sweet modern variation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy has been his usual prideful/arrogant self and Elizabeth Bennet would rather have gum stuck to her shoe than be stuck in a room with him.

When the turmoil of having a pre-teen sibling reach puberty knocks Darcy off his pedestal, his only saving grace will be the one woman who confounds him, teases him, torments him, and intrigues him. They say love is blind, but is it totally insensible as well?

Follow along as Elizabeth’s journey to happily-ever-after is filled with obstacles, roadblocks, and her own obliviousness to Darcy’s growing affections. Will she ever find her way?

Set in the modern day, where both Elizabeth and Darcy are authors. Elizabeth and Darcy start off getting into arguments and debates even if they started out having a normal conversation. But when Darcy asks Elizabeth for help with his younger sister Gianna, let’s see what happens…

This story can be read in about an hour and is just over 100 pages in length.

 

“He is a gentleman and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far we are equal” Elizabeth Bennett

 

Pride and Prejudice special post is brought to you by Meredith

 

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.

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor, Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

The Ultimate Novella to the number one best seller: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

In this book, Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy — the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. A story told in alternating perspectives, first following Zuzana who really wants to talk to Mik, aka “The Violin Boy”  and does so by leaving a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: Zuzana herself!!

I really enjoyed this book, I felt it was like a prequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone but in fact, it’s a non-cliche story about Zuzana and Mik’s first meeting. I found this to be a cleverly executed short story with dual perspective, elements of creepy puppets, gothic magic and amazingly detailed architecture. A lot of fun to read and very easy for me to lose myself into. The illustrations were absolutely brilliant, they were so creative and really brought the story to life throughout the book. I also LOVED the independent graphic novel scene from Daughter of Smoke of Bone.

A must read for the fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series!!!

-Annie

 

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair 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

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde BLOG TOUR

TIME TO GET YOUR GEEK ON!!!

Three Friends – Two Love Stories – One Convention
-FUN FUN FUN!!!-

Wow, this book was a lot of fun to read! It was so entertaining from start to finish, I virtually smashed this book in about 2 days! I love reading stories that are set at what I call “geek conventions” as I am big fan of pop culture myself so I really get wrapped up in entertaining reads like this one that follows BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie who go to the SupaCon with expectations of an epic time but what they don’t expect is it will change their lives forever. I found it easy to place myself with the characters and following their journey in this book even though they switched from one character to another throughout the story. What I found unique and quite clever about this book was how the relationships between the characters were beautifully woven into the story and the strong representation of diversity within the characters. A fun, humorous story relating to strong friendships regardless of diversity and covers important themes through a positive story.


Here’s a quick Q&A with the talent behind “Queens of Geek” Jen Wilde!!

What kind of research was involved in writing Queens of Geek?
A lot! I spent hours and hours researching everything from lines at conventions to character stereotypes and tropes to avoid. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs and found twitter chats about writing different characters. I read up on autism and anxiety too, because even though I am autistic and anxious, my experiences are not the only experiences of it. I listened to what other writers and readers were saying about both harmful and positive representation and applied it to my work. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there for writers and I think I must have devoured it all, and still do. 

The book cover for Queens of Geek is GORGEOUS. How much of a say did you have in the final cover?Thank you! I’m obsessed with it! The designer came up with four amazing covers, and then Swoon Reads opened up voting so people could choose their favorite. This cover had my heart from the moment I saw it, so I was secretly hoping it would get the most votes, and it did!

Can you recommend a few LGBT YA novels you’re loving at the moment? 
Oh, it’s so hard to choose! I love Everything Leads to You, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, You Know Me Well, and Juliet Takes a Breath. I’ve also got When The Moon Was Ours, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and Meg and Linus on my TBR.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for approaching me to be part of this Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie