Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest #1) by Kate Forsyth

wolfhaven castleTitle: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st September 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 185

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Tell your lord to beware, the wolves smell danger in the wind…’

Wolfhaven Castle has been attacked, and only four escape capture… Tom, trained to scrub pots, not fight; Elanor, the lord’s daughter; Sebastian, a knight in training; and Quinn, the witch’s apprentice. Somehow, if they are to save their people, these unlikely heroes must find four magical beasts from legend. But first, they have to make it out of the castle alive…

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Wolfhaven is for now, peaceful. Lord Wolfgang rules over the land from Wolfhaven. Yet whilst out collecting for the kitchens, Tom is given a warning by a wild man about coming danger. When he gives the warning in the lead up to a big dinner, he is ignored. It is only a few weeks later, when the castle is attacked, that Tom is believed. He manages to escape the castle, along with Quinn, the witch’s apprentice, Sebastian, a knight-in-training and Elanor, the daughter of Lord Wolfgang.

Together, they must awaken the four sleeping heroes they are told about by Arwen and find a way to save Wolfhaven from invaders and captors, who appear to have been planning this for a while are seeking to gain control of the entire realm.

2019 BadgeKate Forsyth has created a magical world of adventure, mystery and quests – a backbone of many of her novels for adults and children, and each quest takes a different shape. Here, four young heroes, aged around twelve to thirteen, must journey across a dangerous land with dangerous people after them to save Elanor’s home. Arwen has gifted each member of the Wolfhaven Four a magical item to help them on their journey, where they will need to work together – which Quinn, Tom and Elanor seem willing to do, yet Sebastian at first is uncertain, though I am sure he will come around eventually.

I loved that each character had their own distinct background and personality that will evolve across the series and contribute to what is to come and the forthcoming quest. The story has a good pace, and keeps the interest of the reader in Kate’s familiar and delightful lyrical style that flows like a river through each of her books, dipping when it needs to for moments of calm or peace, or leading towards cliff-hangers that lead into the next chapter, part or next book, and The Impossible Quest is no exception, and is filled with excitement.

It is good for all ages, and can be read alone, or with someone, and pulls together four very different heroes from different backgrounds and skills to go on this quest. As I continue to read the series, I am eager to see where they go, and how the characters develop across the series. Like many of Kate’s stories, she has crafted this in a genius way and knows when to reveal something, and when to hold it back. It is the mark of a master storyteller when a novel or series has such strengths that it has readers coming back again and again to uncover new things or to just enjoy the story again. Kate Forsyth is one of my go-to authors for any time, and I love everything she creates.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

x99-percent-mine.jpg.pagespeed.ic.EFt0ZzX-3G.jpgTitle: 99 Percent Mine

Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Piatkus

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game , which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach… 

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

This next hilarious romance includes a special PS section with two Happily Ever Afters one for this novel featuring Darcy and Tom and the other, an epilogue featuring fan favourites Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman from The Hating Game! 

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I was attracted to Sally Thorne’s first novel The Hating Game because it was a cleverly written romance, where the characters were three dimensional, had lives beyond wanting to date, and many things happened that led to them to grow from hatred, to respect. And then from respect to friendship, and finally to love. Not only that, the characters were allowed to be who they were as individuals, and the story was filled with so many aspects that allowed the characters to grow as they explored more than just their relationship.

And, in 99% Mine, we have a couple in a similar situation – where being together has been fraught with issues and obstacles – Darcy couldn’t say i love you as a teen, Tom is engaged, and to top it all off, Tom, and Darcy’s twin brother, Jamie, are constantly worrying about Darcy and her heart condition: has she taken her medication, Darcy, you can’t over exert yourself. In these moments, I felt Darcy was at her strongest, showing her conviction of character, and her refusal to let her disability define her, though it has restricted her in the past, as she recounts throughout the novel, which is told from her point of view.

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Darcy has been in love with Tom for years, but both seem to have avoided the issue since they were eighteen, and Darcy has spent time jetting off around the world, working as a photographer and in a bar to make ends meet. When Tom is set to start work on her grandmother’s old cottage to sell, Darcy finds her feelings are bubbling again. Whilst Loretta, Darcy and Jamie’s gran has instructed them to sell, Darcy wants to keep the house and live there. This adds another layer of tension as Darcy becomes involved in the renovations, putting her health at risk.

The romance in this novel is more overt – because the characters are more obvious about where they want it to go, but much like The Hating Game, they take their time to fall into it. Here, they need to navigate the complexities of prior friendship, and a fiancé and Darcy feeling like Tom is overprotective or hiding something from her – or both – that need to be worked through before the inevitable can happen. When couples get together towards the end, it feels more satisfying, because as a reader, I get to go on the journey with them, and see what led to them wanting to be together. It is also refreshing to see characters who have things of their own that they might share with the other. One final thing I liked was that it was lots of tiny things that made Darcy, Tom and Jamie work as characters and friends, and family, not just one – they were who they were individually and together, giving each reader something different to connect to.

An enjoyable second novel from Sally Thorne.

Harry Mac by Russell Eldridge

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing purposes

harry-mac

Book Title: Harry Mac

Author: Russell Eldridge

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st July 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $29.99

Book synopsis: Tom and Millie are best friends who live in a quiet lane on the edge of town. They rely on each other to make sense of what’s going on in their lives and in the lives of their families – especially Harry Mac’s.

Harry Mac, Tom’s dad, is a man of silences and secrets. And now Tom is involved in one of those secrets.

At school, Tom sits through lessons on the arms race and President Kennedy, waiting until he can be back on the lane where life is far more interesting: why does a black car drive slowly up the lane every night? And what did Harry Mac mean when he wrote in his newspaper ‘people disappear in the night’? A series of shocking events and discoveries lead Tom closer to the truth, but threaten to tear his world apart.

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Set against the backdrop of apartheid, and the incoming laws that further restrict what people can say and do, and where they can go, Harry Mac explores the human cost of this terrible time in South Africa. Best friends Tom and Millie share stolen midnight moments at the abandoned house where a recent murder took place. For me, this was one of those books I couldn’t put down. I read into the night most nights, wanting to know what happened to Tom, Millie and their families.

At first, things seemed calm, almost normal, until the late night rallies and police visits, Little Harry’s conscription, and the rumours about Nelson Mandela appearing somewhere whilst he was on the run. As awful as those times were for people who spoke out against apartheid and who were adversely affected by the government of the time under Verwoerd, they are still fascinating and this book is a look into how ordinary people survived. It is also about the relationship Tom has with his father, Harry Mac, and how this changes and evolves.

One thing that hit me hard was the story of the abandoned house where the murder had taken place. The story of the family who had lived there and what they saw as their only way out when their race was reclassified, meaning one member could no longer reside with the rest of the family, or they’d all have to be reclassified and leave what they knew. The events of the novel take a serious turn as Harry Mac is questioned over his activities and articles, and their maid’s son is arrested. Soon, the world they all know is darkened by shadows and uncertainty.

What I loved about this novel was seeing apartheid through the eyes of a child trying to understand it and what racism truly means to some people. There is a sense of why amongst the main characters, a protest against these people hell-bent on using their power to destroy lives of so many that they just don’t like. It is history repeating itself, just like World War Two and the Nazis hating the Jews or any point in time where governments have tried to separate races – perhaps not always to the extent in apartheid. The novel ends beautifully and I found myself re-reading it a few times to make sure it was the end.

Russell Eldridge’s book was moving, and I hope he has another book in him.