Best books of 2010 to 2019

In compiling this list, I had to go back to all my reading log lists – which I began in about 2006, and to date have over 1300 on my combined list. But in doing this, I discovered it was quite difficult to narrow things down to just a handful of ten or fifteen like Theresa did. In fact, there was one series that had one book a year from 2010 to 2019 that could have made up my entire list – but instead, it has comprised one entry as a series.

So, in no particular order:

The Matilda Saga (2010 – 2019)

The Matilda Saga began with A Waltz for Matilda in 2010 and ended this year with the ninth and final book, Clancy of the Overflow. It tells history from a different side – the voices often silenced based on race, gender, class or a combination of these, and other factors such as disability, and other experiences that are not always recorded in the history books. From 1894 to the 1980s, the series spans nearly one hundred years of changes in Australian society – from cars to Federation, to war and the social movements of the sixties and seventies. This is a series well-deserving of a place on this list.

Miss Lily series (2017-2019)

Miss Lily begins just before the outbreak of World War One and has taken us so far to the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression that would lead into Nazi Germany and another war that would see millions killed in concentration camps, and on the battlefield. With book four due out in 2020, this is a series I am watching keenly to see where it takes us and our beloved Sophie. The Miss Lily series also has three e-books set at Christmas, one of which I am yet to read.

Medoran Chronicles (2014-2019)

This has a place as a whole series because this is the series that got my blogging journey started seriously – when the publisher was looking for reviewers for the first book, Akarnae. I said I would, and from there, the blog grew, as did my love for the series, reviewing each subsequent book for Pantera Press over the years until the final one earlier this year, Vardaesia. From wonder to heartbreak, and everything in between, this series has it all, and the way certain aspects are executed are exceptional and done in a way that is heart-warming, heartbreaking, and very, very fitting for the characters.

Rowland Sinclair Mysteries (2010 – 2019)

Ahh, Rowly. I was introduced to Rowland Sinclair by the NSW Writer’s Centre when they were seeking reviewers with book two, and since then, have read the entire series and sent the reviews to Pantera Press. I am looking forward to reading more of these books as they come out. Poor Rowly has been through many beatings and been caught up in investigating many murders, attacks and with politics that are quite the opposite to his brother, Wilfred. Accompanied by sculptress, Edna, fellow artist, Clyde, and communist Jewish poet, Milton, Rowly travels the world and Australia during the turbulent 1930s as Europe hurtles towards yet another war, twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars.

Kensy and Max (2018-2019)

I have read all four available Kensy and Max books, and love them all. They’re fun, and engaging, and filled with danger, wonder, intrigue and friends. As spy kids, Kensy and Max – twins – are training with fellow students at Pharos, whilst trying to keep the kids who aren’t spies at school from discovering what they are up to, and travelling across the world on various missions. Form London to Sydney, Rome and Paris, it seems trouble will always find Kensy and Max – but they will always manage to find a way out of it and get back to their family.

2010

now MG.jpg

Now by Morris Gleitzman

2011

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

2012

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

2013

the wild girl

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

2014

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The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

2015

the beasts garden

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

2016

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

2017

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Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

2018

Pippas Island 2

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

488 Rules

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

Again, many of these are Australian authors, some with multiple entries but their books just stayed with me and wouldn’t let me rest, for a variety of reasons. Of course, some appeared on my list for this year – as the books for the year, but these are the ones that made deep impacts on me, and the ones I can actually remember being published in these years – some I wanted to include I wasn’t sure but I loved them anyway and may need to write something about other books I have enjoyed at some point when things calm down. As for the ones with entries in both – these were ones that had such impact, it was difficult to choose which book from the series to include.

So rather than one per year, I probably now have closer to up to five for each year, and many are fairly heavy in what they deal with, but some are lighter, and filled with humour. It was very hard to decide – I wanted to include everything possible! Okay, 2016 has two entries – but for very different reasons. Upon reading the reviews you will see why. So there you have it. The books that made the biggest impressions on me for many, many reasons over the past ten years. Some authors get multiple mentions – because they wrote books that had many impacts on me and they created worlds I never want to leave, and worlds I will have to revisit.

 

Best Books of….2019

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

As the year comes to a close, many in the book blogging and reviewing community, and the book community in general – radio shows, podcasts, authors – have been posting and recording about this. And let me tell you, it is hard, and often, so many good ones are left off, and to me, ranking them is just mean because how can you rank books? Especially all those ones that stayed with you.

I had hoped 2019 might be easier to start with – not only do I have the list with me now, but for 2010-2019 I need to go back into other lists and hope I have those records. Or at least be able to work out what books I read that were published between those dates. 2019 seems to be the easiest place to start – as I have that list easily at hand for now. Out of 196 read so far, I found fourteen I loved – and the majority are by Australian women. Of course, these are in no particular order of favouritism, simply the order I read them throughout the year as that was easier to copy across.

vardaesia_3d-cover

Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

the french photographer

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

kensy and max 3

Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

women to the front

 Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee

the blue rose

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

Kensy and Max 4

Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

there was still love

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

rebel women who shaped australia

Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

TheGlimme

The Glimme by Emily Rodda

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Weapon by Lynette Noni

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Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

The Lily in the Snow

The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French

clancy of the overflow

Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

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All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

Even though we still have two weeks left in December, I’m trying to get as many of these posts ready as possible – with my full wrap up posts appearing at the very end of the month or early in the new year, as well as the start of all my reading challenges in 2020 as well.

Choosing best of lists is always hard – there are often so many good books, but this year I went with the ones that stood out for me. Some that did were published earlier than 2019 and will possibly make it onto the 2010-2019 list – which of course, is bound to be longer and have entire series on there as I simply cannot choose only one from each year. It feels like a betrayal to a whole series to do that!

So there you are – for once I was able to choose fourteen favourites!

 

Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Updated-CTL-2018.pngTitle: Crossing the Lines

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Literary Fiction, Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Winner of the Ned Kelly Best Crime Fiction Award 2018

When Madeleine d’Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who’d never lower himself to read the story in which he stars, amuses her.

When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d’Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled.

As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other’s story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

This is a story about two people trying to hold onto each other beyond reality.

“…a pure delight, a swift yet psychologically complex read, cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed.” – Dean Koontz

“A tour de force!…a brilliant blend of mystery, gut-wrenching psychological suspense and literary storytelling… a shining (and refreshing) example of meta-fiction at its best – witty and wry, stylish and a joy to read.” – Jeffery Deaver

~*~

What happens when author and character write about each other, each thinking that the other is their own creation? Sulari Gentill explores this in Crossing the Lines, as Madeleine d’Leon contemplates writing something so different to what she usually writes, the limb she goes out on with Ned McGinnity begins to bleed into her life – and Ned begins to write about her. Leaving behind her much-loved and sought-after private detective, Madeleine delves into the world of Ned McGinnity, a serious novelist writing about Madeleine the crime novelist, who writes quirky, whimsical mysteries.

Yet as Ned and Madeleine write about each other – a crime novelist writing about a serious novelist, and a serious novelist writing about a crime novelist – the lines between reality and fiction, writer and character begin to blur, and their worlds begin to meld. Madeleine seems to fall into Ned’s world more than him into hers, but there is a feeling of connection beyond creation between the two – where the author becomes the character and the character becomes the author, and two worlds begin to collide.

2019 BadgeSulari Gentill has stepped away from Rowland Sinclair here – yet as she also as the Young Adult Hero Trilogy, it is interesting and fun to see the different things she can do with her characters and how they each remain faithful to their own books and works. Here, she has cleverly explored the relationship between character and author, and the act of writing and where it can take the author – sometimes to places that the author least expects, as happens to Madeleine in this book.

Filled with the complexities of the relationship of character and writing, this book has a feeling of meta-fiction to it – where the author character is writing about her character, and vice versa. It can be a confusing concept to try and understand, it is in essence, a piece of work of fiction, where the author uses parody, or departs from the traditional conventions of the novel. In this case, using the fictional author’s character to tell story as well as the fictional author, in an attempt to look at the various ways genre can be explored and how authors respond to genre.

This was a fun read – a few people Sulari knows make cameos, adding to the metafiction feeling, and showing that there are many ways to tell a good story, and many ways to write a story. It is an intriguing read for all, and one that I managed to read in one sitting, and now I must wait for my next taste of Sulari’s work with the tenth Rowland Sinclair next year.

Blog Tour Part Two: Interview with Author, Lynette Noni

 Hi Lynette, and welcome back to the Book Muse! Last time I interviewed you, I think Akarnae had just come out and it was my very first interview as a book reviewer, so this is very exciting to have you back.

 

 

The Whisper duology is quite a departure from the Medoran Chronicles – what inspired you to venture into a different genre and plot?

 

I wrote Whisper when I was waiting on edits for the second book in my Medoran series. I had itchy fingers, so to speak, and I was desperate to be writing something, but I knew it made little sense to start drafting the third Medoran book without first knowing what might change in the second. Instead, I began to dabble with something new. At first, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was doing, but the voice of the main character really spoke to me (ironic, really, given that she doesn’t speak at all for the first half of the book!). All it took was the prologue — a page and a half — for me to be ensnared by “Jane Doe”, and filled with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she locked up underground in a secret government facility? Why did she consider herself a monster? And so the questions went, until I was desperate to unravel her mystery. So the simple answer to your question is that I was curious, and I needed answers.

 

 

Both Whisper and Weapon are filled with secrets – which drive the plots and ultimately, give Alyssa her drive to discover the truth after she starts to Speak. How hard is it when writing like this to hold things back until they need to be revealed?

 

In Whisper, it was quite easy, since I had no idea what those secrets were and was only uncovering them as I went along, so I held nothing back as I wrote. In Weapon, however, I knew that the plot was going to twist and turn in such ways that I needed to sit down and map it all out so that I didn’t end up with one huge mess. Seeing everything laid out visually (I use a whiteboard with different coloured markers) helped me pinpoint the moments when things needed to be revealed to the greatest effect, so it was quite “easy” (relatively speaking) to make sure things happened in the right timing.

 

 

With so many characters lying, I never knew who to trust – was this your aim for readers as well as Alyssa, and what drove this aspect of the novels?

Interestingly, it’s actually very rare that any of the characters lie outright. I’m very careful about this in my books since I have massive trust issues in real life and don’t like people who lie, so I get a bit nose-wrinkly about characters who do the same. Instead, I make it so they misdirect the truth, answering something honestly but incompletely, making the main character — in this case, Alyssa — jump to the wrong conclusions. There is a lot of this misdirection in Weapon, and you’re right that as those revelations come out, it becomes hard for Alyssa (and readers) to know who to trust. That was my intention, so I feel as if my work here is done!

 

 

It’s so exciting to read books set somewhere I’ve been like Sydney – I recognised all the sites you mentioned and loved her jaunt to Taronga Zoo which I guessed was a Vivid trip in May or June. Does Sydney have the potential for so many hidden sites like you created, do you think?

 

I think that with a little bit of imagination, any city has the potential for hidden sites. I decided on Sydney because it’s somewhat familiar to me, but also because it has iconic landmarks that people from across the globe would recognise. And for the super passionate readers, I wanted people to be able to walk the paths my characters travelled, should they so choose to go on that kind of adventure.

 

 

Going on from the last question, I can now never see Sydney the same – I’ll always be imagining hidden entrances or facilities underground. What kind of research into Sydney and its hidden histories or sites did you do, and what are some really good resources to explore?

 

I do a lot of author events in Sydney, and my publishers are based there, so I visit a number of times each year. When I do, I make sure to get out and about and see things, which in turn mean I learn things. A few specific examples:

  1. I’m friends with Australian fantasy author, Traci Harding, and when I mentioned to her that I was writing a book that has a few scenes at Taronga Zoo, she said she knew one of the senior zookeepers there. So the next time I visited Sydney, Traci met up with me and her zookeeper friend, who took us behind the scenes at the zoo and shared all kinds of interesting things. Many of those things didn’t end up in the books, but they still helped lay a map in my mind of what I later stretched creatively into fiction.
  1. While on a visit to Sydney for the Supanova convention, the guest services manager (a Sydney local) took me on a night-time tour of the harbour area, and as we were walking through The Rocks, she explained the history (and the origin of the name), which led me to research further into it, with much of that information ending up in Weapon.
  1. I met up with some Canadian friends in Sydney for a short holiday, and we did a heap of touristy things, including heading out to Quarantine Station for a ghost tour. For the sake of being careful with spoilers, all I’ll say is that a lot of that Q-Station experience (and history) worked its way into Weapon.

So basically, when I see, do, or hear things that inspire me, I go back home and do deeper research into them, but also use a lot of creative license to turn them into fictional settings/ideas.

 

When researching, what is the first thing you do – read, plan or another tactic to begin the journey?

 

Oops, I think I jumped the gun on this question and answered previously!

 

 

Both books deal with the power of words – is this an important message for you, about using your voice, and what drove it?

 

Absolutely. Words are incredibly powerful, and the can make or break a person — or the world. An encouraging word can brighten someone’s day, just as an insult can ruin it. But in Weapon, and even in Whisper, the message goes beyond the words. It’s our thoughts that have the true power. Because our thoughts give power to our words, and our words give power to our actions, so we have to be so incredibly careful about what we think, what we say, and what we do. But… that power works both ways. We all have the capability and therefore the responsibility to use our voices. So let’s use them for good!

 

Whisper and Weapon suggest that the Xanaphan and Speaker Generations was limited in Sydney. As the author and creator, do you imagine a wider world of Speakers throughout Australia or the world? And would there be other groups like Lengard, the Remnants and SCARs?

 

There were a number of different ways I could have gone about this, but for the sake of limiting the series to a duology, I had to simplify things and contain them to one place. But it’s entirely possible that the drug was tested in other countries. Indeed, Australia could have been one of the last countries to enter the drug trial, for all we know! Without having gone down that path in the series, there’s no certainty with my answer, but I like to think there are other Speaker communities out there!

 

 

When writing this duology, what was your writing process?

 

This is a terribly basic answer, but it’s also the truth: one word at a time! (The same for any book or series!)

 

 

Cami and Arryn were my favourite characters – they felt like they were the most genuine, apart from Alyssa. Was this done on purpose, or did it evolve organically, and what other characters did you feel were genuine and wanted the best for everyone?

 

All of my characters evolve organically. I never set out with labels on my characters as I write them, I just start to get to know them through their actions and dialogue and it shapes who they become. But I’m also a big fan of healthy female friendships, so it was important to me in Whisper to have someone there for Alyssa, and that helped mould Cami’s character. With Arryn, I knew there was something different about her all the way along, and I had fun uncovering that, while softening her towards Alyssa (and vice versa) as they got to know each other better, building their relationship on mutual trust and respect. As for other characters, there are plenty who were genuine, with only a few who weren’t, but given how much happens in this fast-paced duology, it was difficult to give too many characters a lot of screen time. And for the sake of spoilers, I think it’s best I don’t name names!

 

 

When you started this duology, had you finished The Medoran Chronicles, and what inspired it?

 

Oops, this is another question I jumped the gun on earlier, sorry!

 

 

Some of the surprises worked really well – are those sorts of things hard to cultivate?

 

As mentioned earlier, I was very careful in mapping out the twists and turns, especially in Weapon. That made it relatively easy to know when and how to work in the “big reveals”.

 

 

If you could Speak, what do you think you’d like to be able to do, and what would you Speak into existence?

 

I’m not entirely sure, but I guess the most obvious answer is to say I’d like to be a Creator, so that I could do anything I wanted? BUT I also quite like Cami’s healing power, so maybe that? Then again, I could still do that as a Creator… So let’s stick to my original answer!

 

If Alyssa had a favourite Disney Princess, who would it be, and would the others have favourite Disney characters as well?

 

Maybe Mulan? Who doesn’t love Mulan! And it would depend on which other characters you had in mind. Cami would likely be a huge Disney fan, and I feel like Smith would be secretly obsessed. Ward would indulge them all (while being amused); Kael would just raise an eyebrow and roll his eyes while stealing all the popcorn; Enzo would be the first to press “play” and sit right up close to the screen; Arryn would be checking to make sure they weren’t in any danger while they watched, and would be taking notes on fighting techniques (to later demonstrate with Enzo); Riley would be leaning back and enjoying being with them all; Schrödinger would be dozing in the corner… It would be quite the scene!

 

Similar to the last question: Can you sort the Remnants and the main characters from Lengard into Hogwarts houses?

 

That’s a lot of characters, so I’ll just stick with the ones I mentioned above (minus Dinger). And I feel as if a lot of them are crossover houses, so you’ll have to bear with my indecision here!

Alyssa: Ravenclaw x Gryffindor x Slytherin

Cami: Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Ward: Gryffindor x Ravenclaw x Slytherin x Hufflepuff (SORRY!! He has elements of them all!)

Enzo: Gryffindor x Slytherin

Kael: Ravenclaw x Slytherin

Arryn: Slytherin x Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Smith: Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

Riley: Gryffindor x Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

 

 

Finally, what’s next for fans? Can you tell us about any future projects?

 

Aside from The World of Throne of Glass which I’m working on with Sarah J. Maas, I have a few things in the works, but since I don’t know when this Q&A is going to be posted, I’m unsure if any announcements will have been made. So all I can say is to keep an eye on my social media accounts for very exciting news of what’s coming next!

 

Any further comments or anything I’ve missed?

 

I think you got it all! Thanks so much for having me!

 

Blog Tour Part One – Book Review of Weapon by Lynette Noni

Weapon_3Dcover.pngTitle: Weapon

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 5th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: I already knew he was a psychopath. But now?

He’s more dangerous than ever.

And I have less than twenty-four hours to stop him.

After escaping Lengard and finding sanctuary with the Remnants, Alyssa Scott is desperate to save those she left behind — and the rest of the world — from the power-hungry scientist, Kendall Vanik. But secrets and lies block her at every turn, and soon Lyss is left questioning everything she has ever believed.

When long-lost memories begin to surface and the mysteries of her past continue to grow, Lyss battles to retain her hard-won control. Allies become enemies and enemies become allies, leaving her certain about only two things: when it comes to Speakers, nothing is ever as it seems . . . and the only person she can trust is herself.

~*~

Picking up almost immediately following the jaw-dropping events of Whisper, Alyssa Scott, who has awoken her Speaking ability, and started to make friends with the Remnants – Arryn, Kael, and the others who escaped Lengard with her, such as Cami, finds herself drawn into a world of more secrets. She discovers the truth about Lengard, and that it isn’t linked to the government as she has been told to believe. Now, she finds herself helping the Remnants as they try to stop Vanik and find a breakout Speaker when another group of Speakers appear. This group is not aligned with Lengard or the Remnants, and the deeper Lyss looks into things and starts to uncover secrets about her own past, and her family, she discovers that everything she has been told ever is not true.

Unsure of who to trust, Lyss is torn into memories of a past she’d been made to forget, and into the lives of people she thought dead for nearly three years. As people she thought she could trust become untrustworthy, loyalties are tested and those she thought were trying to hurt her prove otherwise, Lyss discovers the power and intent behind her words and thoughts – and how one word can change the world.

So this is part one of my blog tour, with a Q and A with the author to appear as well. I first interviewed Lynette during the Medoran Chronicles, and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

2019 BadgeHere, Lynette has created a fractured world – where certain people are kept away supposedly for their own good and the safety of the world, whilst others work to find a different result. In this world, it very much mirrors our current world with technology, and the landmarks of Sydney, but with a twist. Xanaphan has affected at least two generations of people – in ways that could never have been expected. The world that this creates is one of secrecy that runs parallel to our own world, in our own Sydney.

It is a fractured world – much like ours in some ways, where those who are different are, or can be cut out of society because of a difference they’ve got no control or choice over. Both Whisper and Weapon reflect a situation that allows power to be abused in a myriad of ways, instead of working towards acceptance of diversity.

There were many things that I enjoyed about this book. The intrigue about Alyssa and her past, her friends and the situation keep the book going, as mysteries about Alyssa’s past are uncovered – it was the appearance of this strain of the story that had me the most excited as I wanted to find out more about Alyssa. Arryn and Cami were my favourites. Even though at first, Arryn was prickly, she was a fantastic character who, whilst keeping secrets – did so for what I felt were the right reasons – to make sure things went smoothly, rather than the other characters who lied for their own means. I liked that Arryn warmed to Alyssa naturally and slowly – rather than seeming to instantly befriend her as Landon, Cami and Kael did. This made it feel like Arryn had a better understanding of Alyssa, and I loved seeing how Arryn slowly revealed herself and made sure Alyssa was safe.

Lynette Noni cleverly pulls together the secrets and reveals things when we need to know them, which gives the duology its oomph, and made me want to read on to the end to find out what happens to the characters, and ultimately. who can be trusted. She also manages to shock the reader, with a certain event that I never saw coming – all the hints dropped didn’t suggest anything untoward and that made it all the more powerful. In today’s world, words have power – perhaps not exactly like they have in this story. But they can certainly have an impact that we don’t intend and can result in something that we never want to happen.

Another great book from Lynette Noni – and I have now read and own all her books. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Lynette, and I’ll be awaiting her next offering from Pantera Press, who introduced me to her books and the world of book reviewing, and I am very grateful for that experience.

Whisper by Lynette Noni

Whisper3D_withSticker.pngTitle: Whisper

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: 2018 Must-Read Novel – ABIA Winner of Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year 2019

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me. “It’s for people just like you.”

 I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different.

I’m an anomaly.

I’m a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes… Subject Six-Eight-Four, ‘Jane Doe’, has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

Life at Lengard follows a strict, torturous routine that has never changed.

Until now.

When Jane is assigned a new—and unexpectedly kind—evaluator, her resolve begins to crack, despite her best efforts.

As she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, Jane discovers that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot …. And one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

Bestselling Australian author Lynette Noni is known for crafting compelling stories that appeal to devoted fantasy fans and general-interest readers alike. Stepping away from the much loved Medoran ChroniclesWHISPER is an unforgettable series full of suspense that explores the power of words and the importance of finding your voice.

~*~

Imagine a world where if you Speak with intent, you can make things happen with your words. You can create an animal, stop a bullet or harm someone. Would you speak?

This is Jane’s reality – and for over two years, she has refused to speak, stuck in a secret facility below Sydney called Lengard, as her evaluators – especially Ward – encourage her to speak. They want to find out if their theory about her is correct and initiate her into the program. As she breaks, and begins to talk, she becomes friends with Cami, Sneak and Ward and several others. Yet at the heart of Lengard is a dark secret, and soon, it becomes clear that the things Jane has been told might not quite be true as rebellion begins to bubble beneath the surface of what she knows, and what her new friends know.

Jane soon finds out why she is wanted at Lengard – and the discovery of a sinister plot, as she uncovers many truths, will set in motion a flurry of activity that will change the world forever, and where a single word can change everything – and maybe not for the better, either.

Whisper has been on my shelf for about a year – and I have only just managed to get to it after the publisher asked me to participate in an upcoming blog tour for the sequel, so I decided to read it now, so I could do this. I devoured it within a weekend and loved the way it used a similar start and ending, with just a few tweaks to tie in – this was amazingly clever and suited the book perfectly. For the first several chapters, the only dialogue comes from Ward, Cami, Falon, Manning, Vanik and several other characters, who either befriend Jane and help her Speak, or who have an ulterior motive and want more from her than just a few words, and this sinister aspect is woven eloquently throughout, building to something much bigger than what I, as a reader, initially thought. It is these shocks that make it such a good book, especially when the people you trust, you should doubt, and the people you doubt, you should trust.

As Jane, known as JD, Chip, and Jane to her friends, begins to feel confident in her abilities, she also uncovers several truths, slowly revealed in a way that keeps the reader’s attention until the end. It’s powerful because in a way, it is exploring ideas of consent, and having your own power, and your own voice to speak out and speak up when you need to. To be who you are, and also, in a world where the different people are shut away, ideas of trust and faith in humanity and knowing where you stand. It also sets up a mystery that I hope reaches a conclusion in the next book, because there are so many unanswered questions that need an answer. I’m looking forward to reading the next book and participating in the blog tour for Pantera Press in November. Lynette Noni knows how to tell a great story for her readers, and continues to do so.

All the Tears in China (Rowland Sinclair #9) by Sulari Gentill

3D-Cover_C-format_ATTIC.pngTitle: All the Tears in China

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Historical Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 21st January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Shanghai in 1935 is a twentieth-century Babylon, an expatriate playground where fortunes are made and lost, where East and West collide, and the stakes include life itself.

Into this, Rowland Sinclair arrives from Sydney to represent his brother at international wool negotiations. Rowland is under strict instructions to commit to nothing… but a brutal murder makes that impossible.

As suspicion falls on him, Rowland enters a desperate bid to find answers in a city as glitzy as it is dangerous, where tai-pans and tycoons rule, and politics and vice are entwined with commerce.

Once again, the only people Rowland can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a free-spirited sculptress.

“A sparkling crime series… Evelyn Waugh meets Agatha Christie…” – THE AGE

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In the ninth outing with Rowland Sinclair, and his three friends – Jew, Communist and poet – Elias Isaacs, known as Milton Isaacs, the sculptress, Edna Higgins and landscape artist – Clyde Watson-Jones – find themselves in China, on a wool trading expedition for Rowly’s older brother, Wilfred. Instead, Rowly is first attacked in light of the events of the previous book, where Rowly helped out Egon Kisch – twice – and then, meets a young woman who says her name is Alexandra Romanova – a taxi girl who is supposedly rumoured to be the lost princess Anastasia – in 1935, almost twenty years after the Russian Revolution, rumours still abound about one Romanov royal escaping the death squad, but there are also those who believe the truth – is found dead in Rowly’s suite. He is then suspected by the local inspector of murdering Alexandra, as does her brother, Sergei. It is the presence of this Russian family in Shanghai illustrates the rise of Communism and the dangers in Germany, and threats from Japan to China build the backbone to this story.

Inspector Randolph, and several others behind the scenes, are convinced, based on circumstances, that Rowly is guilty. With very little evidence, Rowly is sent to the Ward Road Gaol, where the treatment of prisoners is awful, and where he is mistreated, and where the warden is determined to make his time there terrible – and those who are involved in trying to destroy the Sinclair name, and the lengths they will go to.

Rowly and his friends find themselves in an ever-changing world of politics – fascists, Communists, Nazis, and the rise of Hitler, and the clashes of the New and Old Guard back home in Australia, and conservative brother, Wilfred, trying to pull Rowly to his side of politics and away from his friends, yet Rowly is still wary of becoming involved in either side of politics and the extremes of both sides that bubbled and brewed over decades and culminated in World War Two – events that seem to be mirrored in events today, with the rise of similar groups on either side, with some more prominent than others, and leaders with certain attitudes that Rowly would find absolutely abhorrent. The books are eerily starting to mirror what is happening today – or maybe today’s events are starting to mirror the times Rowly is living through. Or it could be a combination of both.

With each Rowland Sinclair mystery, we move closer to the darker days of the Third Reich, Kristallnacht, and World War Two, and everything that came with those years in Europe, and within the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s, and the inevitability of war, and the question of what Rowland will do – the choices he will eventually have to make.

I started reading the Rowland Sinclair series with book two, when the New South Wales Writer’s Centre sent me a copy to review. Since then, I have read and reviewed every book in the series. It is one pf my favourites – trouble seems to find Rowly all the time whether he goes looking for it or not. A reluctant player in political circles and at times, crime solving – though with the latter, his gentlemanly sense of justice and finding out the truth often wins out – Rowly certainly has managed over nine books to endear himself to readers and fans, has been injured many times across the series in his quest to uncover the truth and solve crimes that he more often than not stumbles into, such as finding a body in his suite, and has frequently frustrated his older brother, Wilfred. In this ninth outing, Wilfred is not physically present throughout much of the book, less so than in others, yet the sense that he is watching somehow is still felt. The Rowland Sinclair series is a charming, historical crime fiction series, peppered with historical figures in each book that are relevant to the plot and the political happenings at the time – events that have an uncertainty about them, and confirm Rowly’s suspicion of politics and his genuine desire to simply help people – though he draws the line at Nazis.

The Rowland Sinclair mysteries are a wonderfully unique and Australian series that incorporates diversity throughout in the characters that Rowland and his friends encounter, and that infuses Australian and world history into a story where a crime takes place, and that makes it accessible and understandable to readers who may not have encountered some of these events in history – and delves into them in a way that is interesting and informative. Most people will be familiar with the 1930s events in Europe and Australia but might not be familiar with China of the 1930s – this novel will introduce them to it.

The compelling and colourful narrative that Sulari creates in All the Tears in China and indeed across the whole series is engaging and delightful. It’s a series that I never tire of reading and talking about, and that is also exciting and engaging. Nine books in, and we are only just in 1935 – but we are inching closer to the events that lead to World War Two, and the eventual war that will divide the world and lead to millions of deaths in concentration camps and on the battlefield. Another great book in a spectacular series that has a very wide fanbase who eagerly await the new book each year.

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