#AWW2020 “First breakfast, and then saving the world.” // Review of “Greenhaelen” by L. A. Webster

Title: Greenhaelen (Chronicles of Algarth #1)
Author:
L. A. Webster
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/02/20 – 10/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: L. A. Webster is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Greenhaelen has a beautiful lyrical narrative style. I want to say it feels a bit like an older style fantasy novel, even though I’m not quite sure how to explain what I mean by that. It eases you in gently, lets you get to know the characters, gives you some beautiful descriptions of gardens, and then takes you on an adventure. 

It’s the kind of story where I wanted to keep reading even when I was stuck at work because I wanted to know if my theories were correct (yes,  had theories!). 

There’s a great cast of characters, both good and bad. Sara as a main character really carries the story. My favourite, though, was Kelan, the teenage son of the woman who takes Sara in when she first arrives in Algarth. First, because he seemed to think he was cleverer than he really was (in a way that all 19-year-olds tend to) but then by the end he really came into his own and really helped the group and I was so proud, I wanted to hug him! 

The story is tightly-plotted, though there were a couple of times where characters needed to get from A to B so a couple of chapters would be devoted to travelling and not much else. This wasn’t too bad, though. It mostly sticks to the POVs of Sara and a few others, but gives us enough from other characters perspectives when necessary for us to know what’s going on. There’s magic and adventure and politics and intrigue, and I love how it all culminated at the end. 

There are parallels between The Blight, an ecological disaster destroying farms and lives in Algarth, and our own struggles with climate change, and I really enjoyed the way this was dealt with without being heavy-handed. 

This is the first in a series, and I am very much looking forward to book two and exploring Algarth further!


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information. 

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Book Review: “The Shadow Palace” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Shadow Palace (The Viper and the Urchin #6)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 28/01/20 – 01/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Please note: this review may contain minor spoilers for the previous books in this series.

It took me a little while to get into this next Viper and the Urchin book, but I think that is because I was feeling a bit reading slumpy. Having said that, I think the story itself did pick up in the second half and that did help me to become more engaged.

This instalment picks up where the previous one left off, with Rory and Rafe trying to snag a meeting with the Minister Voynia in order to aid their mission for the Old Girl back in Damsport.

One thing I really enjoy about this series, especially the books not set in Damsport, is trying to spot the real-life cultures that inspired the ones in the books. I was imagining the Airnian Court much like Versailles – ridiculously wide dresses, wigs, powedered faces, vacuous courtiers… Celine Jeanjean’s descriptions are once again strong and vibrant and I had a really clear picture in my head.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but there was a particular aspect of Longinus’ arc that had me genuinely wondering how he would get himself out of the tight spot he was in. It was very touch and go for a while. He also had some really great character development as a result of what happens to him in Airnia. I love seeing a favourite character evolve.

We also learned a few things about Rafe that we didn’t know before and I think that’s going to play a bigger part in the upcoming books – he’s going to have to learn to be honest with Rory or she’s going to ditch him.

There’s big political stuff going on, too, and now that the team have found some answers in AIrnia, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out in Damsport.

Even though this book wasn’t my favourite in the series, it was still highly readable and as always, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the follow-up!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3), The Doll Maker (book 4) and The White Hornet (book 5) by clicking their titles.

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Cover Reveal! Greenhaelen by L. A. Webster

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and L. A. Webster is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Greenhaelen, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ll be diving in soon.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Self-employed gardener Sara Martin has known from childhood that gardens are enchanted places. But she never expected the magic to be literal.

Miraculously swept away to a landscape dying in the grip of an ecological disaster , Sara discovers that the enchantment is as real as the danger. And when a forbidden healing power manifests in her , she is forced to question everything she has built her life on.

Uncertain how far she can trust her outlaw companions, pursued by an enemy intent on her destruction, Sara must decide how much she is willing to risk for a place and a people that are not her own.

And she will be forced to face the question: what is the price for choosing a safe, little life?

Greenhaelan is Book One of the Chronicles of Algarth.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “Blackbirch: The Beginning” by K. M. Allan

Title: The Beginning (Blackbirch #1)
Author:
K. M. Allan
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: K. M. Allan is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Witchcraft is my favourite form of magic, and the magick in Blackbirch definitely falls under that heading. From the start, Allan creates an almost other-worldly town in Blackbirch. It almost felt like the town wasn’t quite in the 21st century.

To be honest, my favourite character was Eve, the girl who’s something of an outcast because of her fascination with witchcraft and the town’s history. There are some hints at the end of the book as to where her character arc is likely to lead and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out (without spoiling too much, I think it’s going to get messy).

None of that is to say the other characters weren’t interesting. It took me a little while to warm to Josh, mostly because he spends a large chunk of the novel being mopey and a bit of a stick in the mud. But there are reasons why he was doing that, which come out later. Once he was a bit more involved in the action, I was able to get more invested in him.

I am definitely jealous of Allan’s ability to write a climax – there’s a fantastic buildup to a confrontation in the woods that I really enjoyed.  And while most of the major plotlines are wrapped up, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to unfold in the coming books. I for one am really looking forward to it!

 


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Cover Reveal! Blackbirch: The Beginning by K. M. Allan

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and K. M. Allan is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Blackbirch: The Beginning, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ve dived into the first chapter myself today.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!

#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Serpent and the Flower” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Serpent and the Flower
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Contemporary/horror
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★

Review:

Confession: I don’t really know Macbeth that well. I don’t really like Shakespeare’s tragedies. And that probably affected by enjoyment of this book. (Someone give me a romcom set around a production of Much Ado About Nothing, please!)

Well, then, Emily, if that’s the case, why did you put your hand up for an ARC of a book about a group of teenagers staging Macbeth?

Well, because while I might have been more into musicals, I was the theatre nerd at school. And I’m honestly surprised haunted theatre stories aren’t more of a thing – that was up my alley, too. I love theatre ghost lore. Also the cover is gorgeous.

Madeleine D’Este definitely does creepy well. There’s a seance scene in her novella Evangeline and the Spiritualist that creeped me out completely and that was why that was my favourite of the Evangeline stories. And there are equivalent spooky scenes in this one, too. There are some scenes in this book where characters find themselves alone in the theatre or elsewhere in the school, hearing voices or having chairs pelted at their heads by invisible hands.

The characters certainly had their moments (one of my GoodReads updates was ‘Whoa, Ravenswood, you need to calm down!” and another was “Actors like Violet make me glad I’m only ever in the chorus – no one’s going to want to hurt me for my part”). But for the most part I never really felt like the characters leapt off the page… some of the other reviews have referred to parallels between these characters and those in Macbeth, and perhaps if I had been able to spot those parallels,  there would have been some added depth to the characters that I was missing.

My reading experience mostly depends on how invested I am in the characters, but the writing and plotting are both very good, and I think the right reader will definitely enjoy this.


Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Antics of Evangeline” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Antics of Evangeline (Books 1-4)
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Having read Madeleine D’Este’s newest release, “Women of Wasps and War” earlier in the year, it was nice to know that she had some lighter reading in her back catalogue that I could continue on with.

The Antics of Evangeline is made up of four novellas, but I’ve chosen to review them all together. Evangeline is the daughter of esteemed engineer and inventor, Montague Calidcott, though she’s only just discovered that fact. She’s now living with him in Melbourne, and getting up to all kinds of mischief.

Evangeline is a fun lead character. She’s clever but impulsive and doesn’t quite know how to stay out of trouble. She’s also an inspiring inventor, though her inventions don’t always work as intended. The term “inventress” did grate on me a little – I am not sure if it is period-appropriate or just the author’s stylistic decision but I didn’t love it either way. Just use “inventor”!

I know the stories are short but I would have liked to hear more of Evangeline’s backstory. There were definitely some revelations, but I feel like there’s a lot more to know! The last installment was published in 2017; I’m not sure whether further stories were/are intended where we might get to learn more. Ditto her father’s secret project that lurks beneath a sheet in his workshop and every now and then exhibits strange behaviour.

Evangeline is joined by a fun cast of characters, including her best friend Mei, who teaches her martial arts, her Uncle Edmond and his actor ‘friend’/’companion’ August, and Mrs Plockton, the God-fearing housekeeper. They all have very distinct personalities that sometimes clash.

Evangeline and the Spiritualist, episode 3, was definitely my favourite of the four. I actually included it among my Halloween reads as the seance scene was a bit unnerving.

While the books are primarily steampunk, there are small touches of fantasy, which I enjoyed. Things like the seance may be fake or might be supernatural, you’re never quite sure, but the bunyip (book 2) is definitely a monster.

These four instalments are available individually or in a combined volume. I recommend picking these up for light-hearted steampunky goodness.

Individual book ratings: 

Evangeline and the Alchemist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Bunyip – 3 stars

Evangeline and the Spiritualist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights – 3 stars


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“I was no one’s sacrifice. Not then. Not now. Not ever.”// Review of “Serpent and Dove” by Shelby Mahurin

Title: Serpent and Dove (Serpent and Dove #1)
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA (upper range)
Date Read: 03/10/19 – 12/09/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This is one of those books where certain chapters were definitely worth five stars, but there were a few overall issues that meant I couldn’t award that to the whole book.

As far as characters go, I really enjoyed Lou. I loved that she spent a significant part of the book basically trolling Reid. But then she started developing real feelings for him and there was less of the fun stuff…

I also have to admit I find it hard to believe romances where Person A would literally kill Person B if Person A knew the truth about them, and they fall in love anyway. I just… how do you overlook that?

As for Reid himself, he’s honorable and sweet and noble, but… kind of boring?

I could never quite work out where and when the book was set. The religious characters refer to themselves as Christians and carry around Bibles… but the kingdom they live in appears entirely fictional… and not just a fictional country in Europe… truly fictional. They have running water and indoor plumbing, but no electricity… but some of their speech was very modern. So I never got a good sense of place.

But the writing itself is strong and leading up to what I thought was the climax, I couldn’t put the book down. i had to actively force myself to go to bed. But then after that section, the book kept going and the tension didn’t really rise again. I feel that this book should have ended with the attack on the city and the later events should have been the beginning of the second book.

There is lots of interesting set up for the next book and I’ll definitely think about reading it, though at the moment, I’m not completely committed.


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Book Review: “White Hornet” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: White Hornet (The Viper and the Urchin #5)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 13/10/19 – 17/10/19
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

Please note: this review contains minor spoilers for the previous four books in this series.

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that there is very little negative I have to say about the Viper and the Urchin series. This instalment is no different.

In White Hornet, the gang are undercover in the neighbouring country of Airnia, on a spy mission for the Old Girl. They have no idea who they can trust, and at any moment, their covers could be blown…

There was so much intrigue going on. I loved seeing the political machinations inside the House of Bel, even as I hated basically everyone there.

There are some really great character moments, from Adelma using alcohol to try to hide how much recent conflicts in Damsport have affected her (and the others noticing anyway), to Rory and Rafe setting some ground rules in their burgeoning relationship and Longinus finding out more about his family.

I really enjoyed Rory dealing with the Airnian fashions. Rory is no noblewoman, so having to put up with bustles and corsets was very much not to her liking and it was incredibly entertaining. XD

Speaking of Airnia, the descriptions were fantastic. I felt like I was in the middle of a steampunk Imperial Russia with all the descriptions of cold and snow and heated carriages, and enormous coats and pelts. A far cry from muggy Damsport.

This is the first book in the series to end on a cliffhanger, and the next book will be out in a few months. I’m intrigued to see how our team goes as they continue to navigate among their enemies!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3) and The Doll Maker (book 4) by clicking their titles.

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#HocusPocusReadathon – Wrap-up Post

Hey Team Undead! The Hocus Pocus Readathon has come to an end! And I made it to the end! I’m pretty chuffed, honestly!

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

You can read my halfway point check-in here. And now, here are the rest of my titles for the readathon.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    Vampire Islandby Adele Griffin was a random digital library find and a short read. I listened to the audio book while I was cooking. The phrase “vegan vampires” caught my eye and sounded amusing, but I couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do… partially it seemed to be making an environmental statement, but other parts of it seemed to go against that, and I wondered if it was just trying to be funny.
  2. The Sanderson Sisters have risen. Read a book with a female protagonist. (5pts)*Ahhh!

    I loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg so much! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and when I got to the twists at the end, I realised all the clues had been there all along! I want to read a sequel with a Fantasist uprising, but this one does end kind of perfectly, so if there is no sequel, I will still feel satisfied.

    * The Team Undead strength gives us the ability to swap out one of our prompts for one from another team, so this prompt replaces Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that can bring someone back from the grave (5 pts). I was initially going to use the “Read a fantasy novel” prompt from Team Sanderson but I rejigged my TBR and this one worked better.

  3. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    I chose Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin for my group read. So this was unexpected! For a while it felt like a 3 or 3.5 star read, then somewhere along the  way, I got totally sucked in and had to actively force myself to put it down and go to bed on Friday night so I could get up for work on Saturday.If I were rating it purely on how it gripped me while I was reading it, it would be a five star read… but I only gave it four because there were things that bothered me when I wasn’t reading it but when I was thinking about it… some of the language was anachronistic, and I also had no idea where or when it was set… is it a fictional kingdom in this world? Somewhere else? And they have indoor plumbing but no cars or electricity or anything…

    And as much as I enjoyed reading the romance, I could never *quite* believe in it… even if he is the first person to ever treat you well, and he’s pretty sexy, how do you develop feelings for someone who is honour-bound to kill you if he learns who you really are? How do you get past that?

The only thing left to do now is watch the movie to celebrate! I am writing this post on Saturday but by the time it goes live on Sunday I will have done that.

I’ve had a really good time doing this readathon. I’ve met lots of new bloggers and added a whole bunch of books to my TBR. I’ve definitely got the readathon bug now, so I’ve signed up for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon, which starts on October 31! Maybe I’ll see you there!