The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait

ateban cipher 2Title: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2

Author: A.L. Tait

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books

Published: 27th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: An orphan in exile. A band of rebel girls. And a prince whose throne has been stolen. Come on a journey full of danger, intrigue, adventure and incredible secrets.

‘The Ateban Cipher,’ Lucien continued, ‘is also known as the Book of Answers.’
‘Answers to what?’ Eddie asked.
Lucien sighed. ‘Everything.

In the second gripping Ateban Cipher novel, Gabe and his companions journey to a remote mountain citadel where they learn the secret of the mysterious, encrypted book that Gabe has been tasked with protecting. But their enemies are close behind them, and new dangers lie ahead.

As Eddie seeks to regain his crown, and Merry and Gwyn race to free their father, Gabe will discover the answer to his own great mystery – his true identity.

~*~

Picking up where The Book of Secrets left off, Gabe, Gwyn, Merry and Midge are joined by EAWW-2018-badge-roseddie, the lost prince who has been imprisoned whilst an imposter, and puppet of those who have seized control of the country and seek to take over once the King has died, sits on the throne. Now they have escaped from the clutches of Whitmore, Ronan and Sherborne, they must seek out Lucien, who lives in isolation, and take the Ateban Cipher to him, to help uncover its secrets. But what they will find there are more than answers about the book Gabe has been entrusted with – secrets and answers to the questions that Gabe has often asked but never had answered.

As they seek to uncover the secrets, Gwyn and Merry are still seeking to free their father, whilst Midge and Scarlett are following their paths, determined to make sure they find their own destinies. Whilst Eddie, with their help, seeks to find out what has made his father so ill and so near death, and regain his crown. As new dangers lurk around each corner, and Whitmore, and Ronan pursue them across the land, the group of unlikely friends forges bonds so strong that they will do anything for each other.

Much like the first book, the characters dive straight into the action, with the ever present threat of those who are trying to take over the kingdom, and who are after the book Gabe is protecting, never stopping for anything as they pursue them, which makes reading this book quick, and exciting, as I wanted to see what would happen at each turn. Aimed at middle grade readers, it can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested, boys and girls.

Much like the first book, I loved that the girls – Gwyn, Merry, and Scarlett in particular, were the heroes, and knew their own minds – they didn’t do what those around them expected them to do, they did what they wanted, especially Scarlett, looking for a way out of a marriage that would have made her unhappy.

Midge was adorable, and brave, and an absolutely fantastically surprising character. I think she was my favourite character, though they were all well written and awesome. Gabe and Eddie were wonderful too – seeing characters who break the mould of what is expected by readers and other characters in the story is always something great to see. I loved Gabe’s sensitivity and understanding, and Eddie’s willingness to help out where he could and see Gabe, Gwyn, Merry, Midge and Scarlett as equals who wanted the same things that he did – peace restored and prisoners released, with King and true prince restored to the throne.

Gabe’s discoveries were unexpected but worked well with the story – and came at just the right time, with the right pacing. Overall, the elements of The Book of Answers worked really well together, and all the elements tied together nicely at the end. A great read for children aged ten and older, and adults if they like these sorts of stories, and it is a nice quick read as well, which is all down to the well-written pacing of the story.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

the belles.jpgTitle: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism, Young Adult

Publisher: Gollancz/Hachette Australia

Published: 13th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 434

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: ‘Looking for the next big ground-breaking event in YA? This is it.’ Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson series Welcome to the dark decadence of Dhonielle Clayton’s sharp tale of beauty, obsession and magic. . . 
I AM A BELLE. I CONTROL BEAUTY.
In the opulent world of Orleans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

‘Sumptuous and original world-building, heart-pounding plot and gorgeous prose.’ Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Season ‘A whip-smart writer with grand, grand talents.’ Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist ‘Breathtakingly beautiful and deeply unsettling.’ Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author

~*~

In the magical world of Orléans, beauty is everything, and people will do anything to attain it and hide the drab features they are all born with. But there is a select group of girls who are born into this world with the power of beauty, who have the power to control beauty, and give people the look that they want” The Belles. Each generation has its own set of Belles, going back as far as Orléans does, an isle-like nation where the Belles are placed either in the palace as the favourite, or in the island tea houses to assist clients and make them beautiful, in the image that they desire, though they must adhere to rules set forth by the queen. In the generation in the books, it is Camellia and her sisters, Ambrosia, Hana, Padma, Edelweiss and Valerie who are competing for the role of the favourite. They’ve been training their whole lives for this chance, and when it comes, the result is not what they expected, nor what each of them desired.

Within the walls of the palace are dark secrets, secrets that nobody is privy to, and that the newsies and tatters can merely speculate at and send hushed whispers throughout the kingdom. The only people who truly know what is going on are at the palace – and unable to leave or disobey an order that they are given by the queen or her daughter, Princess Sophia. What Camellia will see, hear and have to do will be dark, and dangerous, hinting at a much darker power than any of the Belles could ever have imagined existing, and resulting in a climax that hints that there might be a sequel to come, as there are quite a few unanswered questions.

The world of the Belles is lavish and shows the darker side of beauty and fashion obsession and what it can drive people to, how desperate they might become. In a world where changing ones skin tone and entire look can be paid for, the racial tensions we experience in our world do not seem to be there, and relationships between the same sex and opposite sexes appeared to me to be the norm – where people are paired up based on alliances and the desires of a princess at times, and at other times, their own, but where a Belle is forbidden to fall in love with anyone. she must remain loyal to her sisters and the tea house she serves.

On the surface of Orléans, things appear perfect: because people seem free to choose their look – skin tone, features, hair colour, eye colour, and clothing (for a price and only if you can afford it), and be with someone you love, the dark, underbelly seems that much more sinister – it is hidden beneath a layer of perfection, and desire for what one cannot be. In a world where loyalty can be bought, Camellia and her sisters will learn the price they must pay for loyalty and their own safety.

As the favourite, Camellia finds an ally in the Queen, her guard, Rémy, and the various former Belles who mentor her, including Arabella, the favourite from a former generation. As the story goes on, secrets are slowly revealed – ensuring that the interest of the reader is held throughout, even in darker areas where characters are forced into situations that where they fear for their lives. In a few scenes, the tension is raised, and the pacing in these scenes works well for what they portray – the darker side of the world the Belles live in and what they must do to survive Sophia.

It is a novel of many layers and facets that were peeled back slowly, and where things were hinted at that perhaps mean future books – the ending felt more like the climax of a to be continued storyline, where there is more to come about the Belles and their origins, secrets and powers.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this. I went into it not really knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Dhonielle Clayton has created a wonderfully complex world, and I hope we get to find out more about this world and its characters.

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Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson

Jorie 1.pngTitle: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Author: A.H. Richardson

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Serano Press

Published: 26th December 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 263

Price: $31.99 (Australian) $14.99 (US)

Synopsis: When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius.

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

~*~

*I was contacted to review this book through my blog.

The story starts with Jorie waiting to be taken to Mortimer Manor, where she is to live with her aunt, after leaving a convent school. She is an orphan and is being sent to live with her only living relative. Set in a village that could be either English or Scottish, Jorie’s days are quiet, despite her imagination, until she meets the grandson of neighbour, Colonel Hercules, and a strange white cat who lives by the Tarn outside the Manor. One day she discovers an entrance to another world through the Tarn, where she is known as the Child with Hair of Fire, destined to find three magic stones and keep them from falling into the hands of those who want to do harm to Cabrynthius. Contending with an evil Lord, a psycho tutor with an interest in the stones and Tarn, Jorie and her friend Rufus must find the two remaining stones after discovering one on the necklace Jorie’s mother left to her. And so, begins a journey down into the Tarn, and through an unknown world, full of unknown dangers, dragons and strange looking creatures, and those who want the stones for good, and those who wish to exploit them, to find the remaining two stones and reunite them for the Great Grootmonya.

The Magic Stones in the title are called the Stones of Maalog, said to be an ancestor of Jorie’s, and founder of the village they live in. This history is revealed in the first few chapters, with a little bit too much telling, and could have used a little bit more showing, but it gave background to the novel whilst introducing Jorie to the mystery she’d be solving. Though perhaps this could have been spread out a little more, to add to the discoveries Jorie made along the way.

The premise of Jorie and the Magic Stones is interesting and caught my interest and curiosity when I was contacted through my blog to review it, and I adored that it was set in England, and had a female lead who did not need to rely on Rufus to save her, but rather, assist her and make sure she could do what she needed to do. What the story did well was encapsulate a feeling of magic, albeit a tiny bit too slowly – the action could have happened a bit sooner than it did, though when it did happen, the story started to pick up pace a little bit, which was good.

As the story moved on, the journey was fun and magical. My favourite character was Chook, the baby dragon. I did like that Jorie was the hero and was allowed to be herself with Rufus. Like many children’s stories over the decades, Jorie is an orphan with an indifferent guardian – not so indifferent that she hates her, just absentee, like Colonel Hercules. The trope of the orphaned child or absentee guardian used here acts as a catalyst to start Jorie and Rufus on their journey.  As this is the beginning of a series, there are a few unanswered questions that will hopefully be answered for readers in later books, as sometimes there were holes and questions that needed to be filled and answered.

Overall though, it was a cute story about friendship, against a backdrop of prophecy and destiny, something used often but with varying plots and takes on the idea of a destined child. It was light hearted and not too dark, so it would suit any readership who enjoys these sorts of stories,  and children aged nine and older looking for adventure and new places to visit.

About the Author:

 

A.H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an author.

She has written a series of children’s chapter books, the Jorie series, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire.

In addition to the Jorie series, she is also the author of the Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder mysteries. Murder in Little Shendon is the first book in the series. It’s a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick, Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. And she has more ‘who-dun-its’ with this clever and interesting duo… Act One, Scene One – Murder and Murder at Serenity Farm.

 

A.H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

 

Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/

A. H. Richardson.jpg

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Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One by Paige L. Christie

Draigon Weather cover_for promotion (1).jpegTitle: Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One

Author: Paige L. Christie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Prospective Press

Published: 3rd October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: AU$32.75 (Booktopia) US$15.95

Synopsis: The brutal, drought-bringing heat that arises from the colossal, near-mythical Draigon, is a fell portent, heralding the doom of a bad woman.

When Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve the terrible drought, Leiel is marked by the shame brought to her family. She must leave school, relegated to a new life of servitude.

Cleod, the woodcutter’s son, is Leiel’s closest friend. To avenge Leiel’s mother, he vows to rise above his station and join the Ehlewer Enclave, an elite society famed for training men to kill Draigon.

The friends’ lives take different paths. Cleod struggles with divided loyalties as he learns he cannot be a Draigon hunter while remaining a friend to a tainted woman. Leiel seeks forbidden knowledge and old secrets, placing herself in danger of sharing her mother’s fate.

When Draigon Weather returns to the land, Cleod has the chance to fulfil all his promises—both to Leiel and to his new masters, the Ehlewer. But as the rivers choke on their own silt and heat cracks the earth, the choices the two friends made begin to catch up with them, for what plagues Arnan is more than just a monster.

~*~

A copy of this book was sent to me by the author for review.

Leiel Sower is a girl in a place threatened by what they cannot understand – educated women. She attends school, despite disapproving looks, and is educated at home by her mother, Ilora. For several years of her childhood, Leiel is happy, she has a friend, Cleod, and they both have dreams. Until the day the Draigon Weather comes, and Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve a drought that has plagued Arnan for too long. In the years that follow, Leiel and Cleod’s lives take off on different paths. While Cleod trains to be one of the few who can fight the Draigon, Leiel’s life becomes one of servitude to her brothers, Gial and Klem, and her father. The return of Draigon Weather brings Cleod back, hoping to fulfil his promise to Leiel to make sure she doesn’t meet her mother’s fate – but they must face more than just the Draigon that plagues Arnan.

I love a good fantasy story, and one that focuses on friendships between women and between the main male and female characters is always of great interest. Showing these relationships between Gahree and Leiel, Leiel and Cleod and Elda, Torrin and Leiel play a large part in the story, and how Leiel relates to her world and her family, and what drives her. Leiel is a character who does not let her circumstances and status in her family and society define her. She fights against it, subversively, and makes her voice heard, even though it is often overruled, she finds comfort and power in making herself heard, even if her brother, Klem, refuses to listen to her, she has a partial ally in Gial and a friend in Cleod, and the other women in her life, \who understand the struggles she is facing.

The world of Arnan is also complex, where certain classes and men are valued over other classes and women, and where everyone seems to publicly accept the rules, but subversively, and within the rules of the world around them, try and rebel and change it from within. It is a world of tradition, but tradition that needs to be broken apart and rebuilt, in a world where certain behaviours mean you’ll be sacrificed to a hungry Draigon.

I was contacted by the author to read and review this book after she found my blog and was asked to read and review this book. I gladly did, and I enjoyed Leiel and Cleod’s story. I particularly enjoyed the focus on friendship and platonic love over romantic love, and the strong female characters who don’t let anything keep them down and stay true to themselves. It is a story about the power of friendship, and the subversive powers that society sees as a threat and challenge to the status quo of Arnan, not realising what the people that the Council looks down upon can contribute. The bonds of friendship throughout this novel were strong, and enduring until the end, and the last pages gave a nice set up for what is to come in book two.

This is a very enjoyable read for lovers of fantasy, dragons, and those who like their relationships between all characters to unfold and develop into friendship and bonds that cannot be broken. I hope the questions Cleod had at the end will be answered soon.

 

 

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Graevale (Medoran Chronicles #4) by Lynette Noni

Transparent_3D_Cover_Noni_Graevale.pngTitle: Graevale (Medoran Chronicles #4)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 450

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: ‘Light of dark, only one can win. This world cannot survive in shades of grey.’

Now that Aven Dalmarta sits upon the throne of Meya, Alex must race against the clock to save the rest of Medora from the Rebel Prince’s wrath.

Haunted by an unspeakable vision of the future, Alex and her friends set out to warn the mortal races. But making allies out of ancient enemies proves difficult.

With her nights spend deep in the Library under the guidance of a mysterious new mentor, Alex is desperate to strengthen her gift and keep all those she loves safe. Because in a world where nothing is certain, she is sure of only one thing:

Aven is coming.

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The Medoran Chronicles by Lynette Noni have been described as ‘a game changer’ in YA fiction. A page-turning fantasy series about friendship, finding yourself and the ultimate battle of good versus evil. The Medoran Chronicles are perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Rick Riordan.

The eagerly anticipated fourth book in the series builds to a stunning climax with shock twists and devastating losses. Graevale is an unforgettable read.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseI have been following Alexandra Jennings and her journey since Akarnae was first published, jumping at the chance to review it during an internship at the publisher, Pantera Press. And so, not only did my book blogging grow from there, I fell in love with a series that has me eagerly awaiting each new instalment from Raelia onwards. The early arrival of Graevale as a pre-order meant I got stuck into it right away, keen to know what happened next. Picking up soon after her return from the past and Draekora, Alex is in the midst of telling her friends, Bear, Jordan and Dix what unfolded during that time, and what is to come. Together, they hatch a daring plan to talk to Akarnae’s teachers and the king and queen, and the defences, before heading to speak with the other mortal races of Medora to warn them about the impending war and threat that Aven will bring with him.

Alex is driven to do this and protect those she cares about, and train harder to unlock her gift by a haunting vision of the future she saw in book three – Draekora. With Aven coming, Alex soon finds she has few people she can rely on: Dix, Bear, Jordan, Bear’s father, and the Meyarins, Niyx, Kyia and Zain, whom she trusts fully and who trust her to let them know what is coming and the dangers they will all eventually face at the hands of Aven. What is to come is nothing short of devastating for so many, and painful in so many ways for Alex, least of all being the additional training she receives with a new mentor and mystery classmate in late night sessions in the Library.

Because each novel has started soon after the events of the previous novel, this has a decent pace for the series, and although they all end on rather emotionally wrought cliff-hangers, these work well to keep the reader wanting more and eager for the next book. With book five to follow soon, this September will see We Three Heroes, a collection of novellas told from Bear, Jordan and Dix’s point of views to take place in between Graevale and the last book of the series.

Alex’s journey has been filled with ups and downs, triumphs and failures, but her stubborn nature has seen her through it all, her determination to stop Aven and save Medora and those she cares about driving her towards a goal that seems unattainable, but knowing Alex, she’ll get there, with the help of those she trusts to guide her and assist her where necessary. The darker covers and the smaller the figure of Alex gets demonstrates before you even begin reading how dark and dangerous things are going to be getting.

I enjoyed Graevale, despite the always present Aven and the tragic ending – expected in a war that has been hinted at but no less painful and haunting, and it sits nicely on my shelf with the others, each spine getting progressively darker. So I hope fans of the series enjoy it as much as I have, and I look forward to we Three Heroes and book five when they are released, although I wish they would come out sooner rather than later.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

AU FB Illustrated-AU-Book-Jacket (1)Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition)

Author: JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

Genre: Fantasy, Chidrens and YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 7th November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 160

Price: $45.00

Synopsis: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic!

This glorious new edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (considered a classic throughout the wizarding world) features an extraordinary array of magical creatures, from Acromantula to Yeti via ten different breeds of dragon – all beautifully illustrated in full colour by the brilliantly inventive, Greenaway Medal shortlisted Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander’s years of adventure and exploration have yielded a work of unparalleled importance, admired by scholars, devoured by young witches and wizards, and even made available to Muggles in the early years of this century. With this dazzling illustrated edition, readers can explore the magical fauna of five continents from the comfort of their own armchairs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is essential reading at Hogwarts.

This new edition features the fully updated 2017 text – which includes new profiles of six magnificent beasts that inhabit North America and a new foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.

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~*~

hp20_230As part of the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter last year, JK Rowling re-released a special edition of Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Previously published in several different editions for Wizards and Muggles separately, this illustrated version is an exquisite addition to any Harry Potter library. Several new creatures have been added, such as the Thunderbird, the Wampus Cat and various other creatures found during Newt’s travels across the world when he first wrote the book, giving a larger scope to the wizarding world. Within these covers, there are new introductory notes from Newt by way of JK Rowling, discussing the differences in attitudes to magical creatures and wizards in different places. Each creature has a specific description and Ministry of Magic Classification, ranging from not so dangerous to extremely dangerous, as shown below.

X- Boring

XX – Harmless/may be domesticated

XXX – Competent wizards should cope

XXXX – Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

XXXXX – Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

A previous edition in 2017 included the new creatures and the first editions made available through Bloomsbury and Comic Relief provided only text, and a few pictures by Tomislav Tomic, whose illustrations where wonderful, and the new ones by Olivia Lomenech Gill are beautiful.

Neither artist can be fairly compared, as they each have their own style, and each style, much like Jim Kay’s style in the illustrated novels contribute something unique to the book, and these full-colour illustrations bring the creatures to life in a new and vibrant way for fans of the Wizarding World of JK Rowling.

Olivia’s illustrations evoke the same magic and wonder as the words they sit with on the page, giving a better scope to the world of magical creatures. Though some have shorter descriptions, in the world of Newt Scamander, this would be down to what he could find out, especially during his time in America, where he was shown how secretive the world was in the movie. All in all, this is a delightful companion to the Harry Potter books to coincide with the 20th anniversary in 2017.

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Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

 

In my third wrap up post for 2017, I am looking at my favourite reads of the year. Over the past twelve months of reading so many books, narrowing down my favourites has been quite hard. There are definitely a few that stick out, though. Deciding how many to include in my favourites for the year was a challenge as well. Three wasn’t enough, five barely covered them and ten seems like the next logical number. However, when it came to ranking the books I chose, I found that it was impossible to do so, because I loved them all equally and for different reasons, so to place one book ahead of another didn’t feel right. With a goal of at least ten favourite reads, more if I need them, I have compiled this list. I have listed them as I thought of them, and linked my review. My one stipulation was that the books on this list had to be published this year. I settled on … books in the end, as these were the ones that really stood out to me as exceptional for a variety of reasons.

 

nevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend – a debut Children’s and YA novel about a cursed chid,Morrigan Crow, who is whisked off to the Wundrous land of Nevermoor to compete for a chance at a place at the academy there, and to escape the death that all children born on Eventide must face at the age of eleven. It has been compared to Harry Potter, and it has that some wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. With book two out later in 2018, I am anxious to find out what will happen to Mog, Jupiter North and Fen the cat, who became my favourite character rather quickly. I devoured it in two days, and look forward to reading it again.

 

 

Facing the FlameFacing the Flame by Jackie French – the seventh book in the Matilda Saga takes place a few years after the solemn end of If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Jed Kelly is getting married, and is going to have a baby. In the final days of her pregnancy, Jed must run from the fire and an old adversary to save her life, and her baby. As the fire closes in on Gibber’s Creek, lives will be lost and found, and Jed’s world changes forever. The Matilda Saga is one of my favourite series, and with a new book out each year, I look forward to reuniting with the families of Gibbers Creek each December.

 

 

stars across the oceanStars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman – The story of foundling baby, Agnes Resolute, determined to find her birth mother, whom she thinks is Genevieve Breckby. A journey from the foundling home to London and across the world will lead her to her real mother. It is a story about a strong young woman, determined not to let anything stop her, but a woman of her time as well, finding ways to fit in whilst taking her fate into her own hands. It also tells the dual storyline of a young woman in the 21st century, caring for her mother, and following the journey of Agnes that her mother has been researching. It has a touch of romance that happens as a result

of events in the story, rather than driving the plot. It was a good read, and definitely one of my favourites.

 

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – a favourite

BeautyinThorns_Cover

reads list of mine would not be complete without Kate Forsyth’s latest fairy tale infused historical fiction novel.  Beauty in Thorns is about the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art society, primarily the women w

ho inspired the words and paintings of their husbands and lovers and fathers, and what they contributed. In a world where women were expected to raise children and run a household, the Pre-Raphaelite women did this and inspired the men in their lives, and some even contributed their own artistic talents to exhibitions. Exquisitely told, with the flaws as well as the strengths present, Kate Forsyth is a master at telling the little-known stories of women in history, and bringing historical characters such as Lizzie Siddal to life with her words.

 

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill another author whose books I eagerly await each year is Sulari Gentill, primarily her Rowland Sinclair series. Eight books in, and poor Rowly keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting embroiled in murder and mayhem, and involved in the left side of the political spectrum, far from what his brother, Wilfred, wishes he would do. Several months after the total destruction of his Mercedes in a race that almost claimed his life, Rowland is car shopping in Melbourne with Milt, the Jewish Communist poet, and Clyde, a working-class painter, for a new car. On the drive back from Melbourne, they stop in Canberra, where a Communist is murdered, and soon, both Rowly and Milt find their lives in jeopardy. Set in the 1930s as worldwide political tensions lead to the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the devastation of the Second World War, each book gets more political, and Sulari manages this with great skill, ensuring an engaging series that I feel gets better with each book.

 

into the worldInto the World by Stephanie Parkyn – Another historical fiction novel by a debut Australian female author, and another book I read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as all the books so far have been. Set during the French Revolution of the 1790s, Marie-Louise Giradin leaves her son with a trusted friend, and, disguised as a man, travels on a journey to find La Perouse, lost at sea in the Southern Oceans around the newly colonised Australia. Her journey takes her to Tasmania, where the stories she has heard are far from the truth of what she sees here and on stops along the way, where she tries to speak out, horrified when she sees the slave trade in full swing. It is a journey that is full of surprises – where Marie Louise and the crew find that they may never reach the shores of their beloved France again after Louis XIV is beheaded. It was delightful to read a novel where the woman’s primary role was one of strength and courage, and where women were shown to do things beyond what society expected them to do. A great story, and an enjoyable one.

 

draekoraDraekora by Lynette Noni – Returning to Akarnae and its world each year is a pleasure Set just after the events of Raelia, Alex, Bear and D.C. must find a way to save Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven, the Meyarin Prince who seeks to reclaim their world at any cost. Sent to Meya, and thousands of years into the past, Alex must find a way to get back, and complete her testing and training before she can face Aven. In this fantasy series, each book has been engaging and enthralling, with a strong focus on friendship as the primary relationships in the novel. With Graevale out in a matter of months, this is definitely making my list of favourite books I have read this year, and I am looking forward to Graevale.

 

baby ganesh 3The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan Up until now, each book has been by an Australian female author, and mostly fantasy or historical fiction. The Baby Ganesh series is set in Mumbai, and revolves around a private detective, Chopra, investigating crimes with his trusty elephant, Ganesha, who loves Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate. The pair often insert themselves into investigations, much to the dismay of Chopra’s formidable wife, Poppy, and end up getting into scrapes that young Ganesha manages to get them out of. In the third book, a famous Bollywood star has gone missing, and Chopra and Ganesha are on the trail. A few rough turns take them to unexpected places, and with an ending that was surprising this series has a character to it that few I have read do.

 

bedlam stacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – In what I feel can only be described as historical fiction infused with magical realism, this was one of the most interesting books I read this year. As smuggler Merrick Tremayne is at home, he is summoned to go on an expedition to South America to find quinine to help with malaria outbreaks in East India. What Tremayne and his companions find has them questioning what they know, and how to deal with the world as they have understood and known it. What was clever about this book was that it felt like a historical fiction until nearer the end, when the subtle hints towards the magical realism in the book started to come together. Cleverly done so the reader gets a surprise, I hope that Natasha Pulley writes some more books like this.

 

rotherweirdRotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – This one, set in a town that lives in the current times but whose lives mimic those of Shakespearean times, made the list for its inventiveness, and clever execution, much like Bedlam Stacks. It is part historical fiction, part fantasy, with each section opening and closing with a snippet of the history of the town that history teacher, Jonah Oblong has come to teach in. Cast away from Elizabethan England, Rotherweird seems to have moved on in years but is stuck in a time when a Virgin Queen sat on the throne and a playwright who charmed audiences in the Globe Theatre. It is a place full of anachronisms, cleverly used, and where local history and pre-1800 history is not taught. I look forward to the next book, and what it brings to the mystery and intrigue of this anachronistic little town.

 

Of course, there are many more that I loved, but these are amongst my favourites and the ones that made me think and that offered something a little bit different to some other books out there. Bring on 2018!

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Book Muse, Ashleigh