Book Review: Esme’s Wish

Esme’s Wish – Elizabeth Foster – Esme Series #1 – Odyssey Books – Published 30 October 2017

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Synopsis

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

My thoughts

Esme’s Wish is a delightful fantasy that captures the beauty of a watery, magical world, the trust of true friendship, and the strength of one girl’s loyalty to her mother.

Esme longs to discover what happened to her mother, who disappeared several years ago. Everyone else, including her father, have moved on, but for Esme, the unanswered questions plague her. Until, in her search, she finds herself magically transported to the world of Aeolia. There she discovers that her mother had an extra life full of art, magic, and danger. With her two new friends, Esme begins to uncover the mystery of what really happened to her mother.

I had Esme’s Wish sitting on my bedside bookshelf (thanks very much to the author for a copy) for a month before finally getting around to reading it. Why, oh why did I delay? Because Esme’s Wish is delightful right from the very first page. And I loved that first page. Hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.

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Book Review: The Traitor Prince

The Traitor Prince – C.J Redwine – Ravenspire #3 – Balzer+Bray – Published 13 February 2018

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Synopsis

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

My thoughts

With The Traitor Prince, C.J. Redwine once again delivers an epic fantasy, with aching romance, adventure, heart-pounding injustice, and high stakes as the characters fight for their survival.

Prince Javan has spent the last ten years away at school, working harder than all his classmates to fulfil the promise he made to his mother to be the best, learn the most, so that he can become a just and strong ruler. But when he is attacked on the eve of his return home, Javan knows he must now fight for his future and the safety of his kingdom. Thrown into the treacherous prison, Maqbara, while a traitor takes his rightful place, Javan tries to befriend the prison slave girl, Sajda, who has her own dangerous secret to protect. Forced to fight against monsterous creatures and defend himself against the other prisoners, Javan and his few allies put into place a plan to return him to his throne, but it will not be without sacrifice.

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Book Review: Sea of Strangers

Sea of Strangers – Erica Cameron – The Ryogan Chronicles #2 – Entangled: Teen – Published 5 December 2017

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Synopsis

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

My thoughts

Packed with action, a dangerous quest, romance, and the multi-layered details of a complicated and unique fantasy world, Sea of Strangers is an epic addition to The Ryogan Chronicles.

Sea of Strangers picks up right where Island of Exiles left off, thrusting the reader back into the middle of the action as Khya, Tessen and their crew escape Shiara for the promised freedom of Ryogan. Their journey must serve two purposes: warning the inhabitants of Ryogan of the coming danger, and finding the secret of how to destroy Varan and his seemingly unbeatable power. But their quest for answers, their goal to soon return home for their loved ones, is fraught with danger, and much will have to be sacrificed if they are to succeed.

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Book Review: Indigo Blue

Indigo Blue – Jessica Watson – Hachette Australia – Published 11 January 2018

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Synopsis

Alex feels like a fish out of water in her new hometown – the sleepy little lakeside village of Boreen Point where she is reluctantly sent to live with her slightly eccentric aunt for her final year of high school. None of Alex’s classmates could care less about the new girl, so Alex couldn’t care less about them . . . or so she tries to tell herself.

As a distraction from what is quickly shaping up to be a very lonely year, Alex spends her savings on a rundown little yacht and throws herself into restoring it. An offer to help a shy classmate with a history assignment leads to a curious discovery and the beginnings of a friendship, but it’s Sam – the sailmaker’s apprentice – and his mysterious ways that really capture Alex’s attention . .

My thoughts

Indigo blue is the fiction debut from renown Australian sailor, Jessica Watson. Along with her excellent knowledge of sailing, Jessica brings to this fun and quirky story an obvious familiarity with the landscape and history of the coastal setting. Indigo Blue seamlessly combines sailing, friendship, and romance with magical realism.

When Alex is forced to move to the tiny coastal town of Boreen Point when her father moves oversea, she expects boredom. But an old sailing boat in need of repair and new school friendships quickly fill her time. And then there is the mysterious sail-repair apprentice, Sam. As Alex discovers a piece of local history she also begins to untangle the mystery that surrounds Sam and what makes him so different.

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Book Review: Everless

Everless – Sara Holland – Hachette Australia – Published 27 December 2017 (January 2018 US)

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Synopsis

 Time is a prison. She is the key. Packed with danger, temptation and desire – a perfect read for fans of The Red Queen. In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.

My thoughts

What if time was money? What if the only way to pay your debts was to drain time from your body? Everless is a creative and original fantasy novel that takes alchemy and sorcery and speculates what would happen if it was possible to turn blood into coin.

Jules knows only hunger and a desperate fear that she will be unable to stop her father using the last of his time to pay off their mounting debts. It wasn’t always like this. Once, she and her father lived at the grand Everless estate – as servants, but never hungry or drained of their time. But they had to flee Everless and now her father insists they must stay hidden from the Gerling family. When the opportunity arises to return to Everless for work, Jules can’t resist, especially as she feels it is the only chance to save her father’s dwindling time. However, what she discovers at the Everless estate will change forever her life and how she views her family and her future.

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Book Review: Rosemarked

Rosemarked – Livia Blackburne – Disney-Hyperion – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

A healer who cannot be healed . . . When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . . Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

My thoughts

Rosemarked is a richly detailed fantasy that has a fairytale feel but is entirely unique and cleverly crafted. I so enjoyed sinking into this delightful story. I was enraptured by the first chapter. Here are just a few of the things I loved most about it: the references to herbs and their uses for healing; the complicated morality aspect and the way in which is this so cleverly conveyed through the chapters; the girl who takes down a trained warrior by using her poisonous pet snake; the use of a variety of weapons from bows and arrows to swords, daggers and poison; the messenger crows; that tantalising hint of romance, high-stakes tension and the quote: “I may not be a walking armory, but I’m not completely helpless”.

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Book Review: The Glass Spare

The Glass Spare – Lauren DeStefano – The Glass Spare #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 24 October 2017

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Synopsis

Wil Heidle, the only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.

Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.

But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with her power.

With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?

My thoughts

The Glass Spare is an imaginative fantasy novel that has steampunk influences, where magic mixes with technology, alchemy creates what modern advances cannot, and curses and marvelers war with modern beliefs. Political intrigue, the beginnings of a complicated and impossible romance, and two main characters with caring hearts who want to do right by their kingdoms and their people, even as it will cost them everything.

Wil is the fourth child and only daughter of the king of Arrod, the third spare, hidden from the world and unneeded except as a spy for her father and an errand carrier for her brothers. When Wil discovers strange powers, the ability to turn living things into glass and precious jewels, she is shocked but quickly warms to the sense of power it gives her. Until, in a moment of pride and independence, her gift quickly displays itself as a curse, killing one that she dearly loves and separating her from her family. On the run, exiled from her home, she meets another cursed royal, also exiled from his kingdom. Prince Loom demands Wil’s help and in return says he will help her find the man who can answer her questions.

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Book Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 October 2017

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Synopsis

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

My thoughts

The Last Namsara is a stunningly epic fantasy novel, with aching romance, political intrigue, strong characters, the power and magic of stories, and dragons (everything is better with dragons).

Asha is the deadly and feared Iskari. She hunts dragons for her father, the king, but secretly yearns to tell the forbidden stories that give the dragons more power and once caused the destruction of her city. But with the date of her arranged marriage to the cruel and loathsome Commandant Jarek drawing near, Asha knows her only chance of escape would be retrieving the head of the greatest and oldest dragon. But when her brother returns home with a group of their people’s enemies, and a slave boy crosses boundaries and offers Asha the first signs of trust and affection she has experienced in years, Asha knows that her life, her whole world, is about to change dramatically.

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Book Review: Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore – Kathy Dawson Books – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

My thoughts

Jane Unlimited is another book I have read recently solely because of the author. I found the synopsis confusing and was a little unsure what type of story this would be, but I decided to pick it up anyway because I loved, loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. The few things I did know about the story prior to reading it were: a) it is genre defying, b) it is almost a choose-your-own-ending book, but is written to be read in order, and c) umbrellas get mentioned quite a bit. Otherwise I was a tad confused about it all. Now that I have finished reading it I can say that, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right book for me. Jane, Unlimited is a combination of many classics with its own, very unique style and a mixture of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.

Jane’s aunt made her promise to accept if she was ever invited to stay at the mysterious grand house Tu Reviens. So, when Jane’s friend Kiran offers just such an invitation, Jane agrees. But Tu Reviens contains many secrets and intriguing mysteries and Jane’s own choices will influence what she will uncover and how that will change her destiny.

In her author’s note Cashore indicates that Jane, Unlimited reflects a number of literary works including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The House of Mirth. Jane, Unlimited’s tone and style are very much reflective of these novels. It actually reminded me of a novel that I would be asked to read for senior English or a university course and then have to analyse it to death. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, because those are not my favourite type of books, but I can imagine someone who loved those classics really enjoying this book.

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Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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