Review: The Gracekeepers

The Gracekeepers
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Gracekeepers, with a beautiful cover accompanied by a promising blurb (including the mention of a circus!!), just begs to be read. It tells of a wretched world where the people fights for daily survival and seeks the right to live peacefully, to love and be loved.
There is an air of mystery throughout the whole book. A mystery of how the world became such a sad place. A mystery of why Callanish chose to become a Gracekeeper. A mystery of what was in North’s past and how she comes to her current condition. A mystery of what the world is coming to and how people will survive. The Gracekeepers is a very curious book which requires a lot of reading between the lines.

Both North and Callanish have learnt to be independent –in order to survive this hard world of theirs, they needed to be strong and cunning. Their backgrounds are worlds apart and yet, in their choices of isolation, they found a common bond. And through this bond, a hope for survival… a hope for a better life… a better world…

The Gracekeepers has been woven in a beautiful lyrical prose despite the miserable conditions. It was a pleasant read though mainly just to enjoy the words and how they were linked together in a way that is lovely as they come off the page. You will need to set aside certain expectations (like action or romance) and pick this up just to enjoy the ride read.

Thanks to Crown (via Edelweiss) for copy of eARC in exchange of honest review

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Review: Night Walker

night walkerNight Walker by Aaron L. Speer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: ebook courtesy of author

Night Walker piqued my interest mostly due to its setting; Sydney. I’m always keen to read a books set in my hometown so when the author, Aaron L. Speer, approached me, I really couldn’t refuse. He stated that he didn’t think there was a vampire story in connection to the Australian history before… I can’t think of one either so, I was really quite curious.

I had quite a bit of expectation of some historical content with some well-known historical characters with some being, secretly, creatures of the night who are alive (or rather, undead) now. The historical part of the story was only at the beginning of the book with only references to the past later on in the story.

The unfortunate bit was that I struggle to sympathise with any of the characters so it really took me a long time (maybe halfway) before I started enjoying the story. I don’t think I’ll go into exactly why because that’ll take a long time; suffice to say that I found each character to be annoying in a different way. There are characters that I don’t think I’d get along well, in life, at all.

I feel this novel to be plot heavy –lots of characters talking and doing things but I’m missing the atmosphere of this world. I’m just not quite sure what it’s supposed to be like! I’d like a bit more of world building –more descriptions on the surrounding (the colours, the smell, the feel, etc). And then, the ending… hhhmmm, I was utterly exasperated by the turnaround!!!

Honestly, I think I have been completely spoiled by All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness so please bear this in mind when you are considering my review knowing where my perspective lies. Night Walker has an appealing premise but I’ve only found delivery to be average.

Thanks to Simon Aaron L. Speer for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: The Clockwork Crown ~ Guest Post + Review

 

The Clockwork Crown Book BannerThe Book

The Clockwork Crown

The Clockwork Crown (Clockwork Dagger Duology #2)           by Beth Cato

Rich in atmosphere, imagination, and fun, the action-packed, magic-filled sequel to The Clockwork Dagger is an enchanting steampunk fantasy, evocative of the works of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

Guest Post

Five Things to Know About The Clockwork Crown:

  1. The Clockwork Crown is the sequel to The Clockwork Dagger. The series is steampunk fantasy. It blends Victorian and Edwardian clothes, morals, and technology, but adds a strong magical twist. Plus, it takes place in a fresh setting off Earth.
  2. My heroine is Octavia Leander. She’s gifted with profound healing powers. When she is near people, she can hear their injuries and illnesses in the form of song. This enables her to use rare herbs to cure them, but also makes it difficult to go anywhere in public. She’s utterly overwhelmed by the songs and needs of everyone around her. She can’t save everyone, but she wants to.
  3. My hero is Alonzo Garret, a dark-skinned young man who lost part of his leg during his time as a soldier. When he first meets Octavia in The Clockwork Dagger, he’s an airship steward. As Octavia soon discovers, there’s much more to him than that.
  4. As The Clockwork Crown begins, Octavia and Alonzo are fleeing for their lives through snowy wilderness. Octavia’s healing powers have attracted the wrong sort of attention. Some people want her dead, some alive, and some for other sordid, selfish purposes. She and Alonzo are not only fighting to stay alive, but they want to understand why Octavia is so powerful… and why her abilities are becoming stronger so quickly.
  5. The stakes are high and the action fast, but the novels aren’t dark. In the first book, Octavia saves a little gremlin and names him Leaf. Leaf has a knack for taking over the whole story, and in The Clockwork Crown, more gremlins join the cast. These creatures are like furless green cats with bat wings. They can’t speak words, but they meow, purr, and make their feelings quite known. Many people around Octavia regard gremlins as pests, like flying rats that like to steal silver, but Octavia befriends and defends gremlins. She sees something of herself in gremlins: beings that aren’t understood or accepted by society, and just want to be loved.

My blurb

The Clockwork Crown was a fast easy read; with an interesting world setting, some quirky characters / creatures and a touch of magic, it falls right in the middle zone of my comfort reads.  I found the mystery behind the magic to be most captivating factor in this duology.

Octavia and Alonzo as main protagonists are likeable enough though I don’t understand Octavia’s choice at the end.  Oh, I know the reasons of why she made her choice but I just don’t get it (or maybe I just wanted it to go a different way.  Really wanted it to!).  I guess, the ending was pretty predictable so I wanted something shocking or even tragic (I’m really not a sadist… well, maybe, sometimes…).

There was plenty of actions with some interesting twists.  However, there was one where I’d just had to roll my eyes at; I just couldn’t believe how naïve Octavia was!  The romance was kind of sweet though there really wasn’t much of it.  It’s a very clean romance with some kisses (only) and even those, are very tame.

Overall, whilst I enjoyed a very relaxed reading of The Clockwork Crown; it wasn’t quite memorable.  It was missing a certain spark… there was a lack of feels (it wasn’t really dark nor funny nor sweet) so it was just an average read for me (3 stars).

Thanks to Harper Voyager for copy of book in exchange of honest review

 

 

 

Review: Fable

Fable Image 2

Ashenputtel ~illustration by Ricardo Jorge

Fable by various authors
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: complete digital copy courtesy of publisher

When I was first approached for a review for this collection of stories, I’ve not heard of The Pigeonhole previously.  It’s an interesting concept of serialised books accompanied with rich illustrations and the capability to discuss, with readers and authors, one’s thoughts on margins.  A stave is released per week so you’d have something to look forward to, in the week; just like looking forward on receiving that shiny new mags.  I couldn’t say no since Kate Forsyth, one of my favourite authors, was contributing to this particular book.

This collection of short stories (or fables) are divided into 8 staves.  The first stave contained 2 classics: Ashenputtel by Brothers Grimm (better known these days as Cinderella) and The LIttle Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson.  Both are very well known stories featuring intelligent and courageous girls with a happy and an unhappy ending each.  And so, the tone of the book is set… all stories featured bright, resourceful girls each unique with their own real struggles of life (whether it be identity, love, equality, justice, etc.) and some emerged victorious.

‘I fear you not, I shall hold fast,’ she said.  ‘You are my one true love and I shall not leg you go.’ ~Heart of Flesh, Heart of Stone: a Retelling of ‘The Ballad of Tam Lin’ by Kate Forsyth

Fable Image

The Farmer and the Badger ~illustration by Ricardo Jorge

Typically, fables are short in length but clear in its message, utilising mythical beings or nature to illustrate their meanings.  The stories in these collections (the old, the new, the new but old stories) have set forward life lessons but have also incorporate some modern (even recent) issues.  These are stories that will never age… no matter how old you are, which century you live in, there are lessons to be learnt.

Whilst I’m familiar with Kate Forsyth’s works (many fantasy novels and a few fairy tale retellings), I don’t know any of the other authors.  I loved Forsyth’s wonderful characters here (was a little sad that the stories were short!) but was gratified with the array of talent in the proceeding staves.  I’m looking forward to getting to know these new authors better.  Do check out these stories, there are so many things to be dissected and discussed!

Thanks to The Pigeonhole for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Blog Tour: Season of Shadow and Light ~Guest Post

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It is my pleasure to welcome Jenn J. McLeod to my blog and share a little about herself.  Noting her novels, I assumed that Jenn would have seen many places around Australia as she research them for her novels.  So, I asked her to share her ‘4 top spots’.  Here’s her response…

Jenn’s Writing On The Road

 

Writing on the road sounds kind of illegal, like graffiti. I mean, of course, I’m writing my novels (on a laptop) while travelling the country in a caravan.

Tien, you asked me about my “4 top spots on any road trip & why.”

Well, I bet you weren’t expecting this reply, but here we go:

My 4 top spots as I trip around the country are:

  1. a small town library
  2. a small town bookshop (especially if it has a coffee machine!)
  3. a small town book club (especially if it’s held in a café)
  4. a small town pub

 

Now for the ‘Why’.

I joke that my #WriteRoundOz odyssey is because I’ve run out of family and friends to fictionalise, but what I’m really doing (it’s early days) is incorporating small towns and regions that don’t see a lot of author activity.

Take Casino in the north (and a little west) of NSW, for example, where I spent six weeks over Christmas. What a friendly town and such a great experience when I dropped by the local library to say “Hi.”

Here’s how that went:

I walked up to the desk and asked the librarian, “Do you have any Jenn J McLeod books?”

“Let me check for you,” she replied with a smile. Then, her smile fading, promptly added. “We do. We have both House for all Seasons and Simmering Season, but I’m afraid they are all out on loan.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful news!” I said, beaming. “Because I’m Jenn J McLeod.”Casino-Library-staff-3

She greeted me so warmly and introduced the Assistant Manager and other staff, who agreed the locals might enjoy an in-person author event.

Fast forward to the end of January . . .

I spent THE best two hours talking to book loving locals about writing and publishing. I met a couple of budding authors and those present were delighted when I shared Casino-treatsthings about Season of Shadow and Light with them all.

Locals and librarians said my being there made them feel very special, and yet I was the one feeling special, especially when I saw the amazing display on the day of my chat. (Closest I’ve come to having my name up in lights!)

 

The reason for this travel tale is . . .

It’s that wonderful, warm, country welcome and connection I am hoping to experience in libraries, bookshops and book clubs around the country. I already have a couple of book clubs in QLD and WA keen for me to “let them know when I’m passing through town.”

I am slowly settling into this gypsy life—of having no home, no destination and no deadlines (other than writing ones, so I can get my next book written on time). This is my life now so I’ll take my time and savour every wonderful season this country has to offer.

Maybe in the comments you can tell me the best season to visit YOUR town/city. Maybe you can tell me why . . . and also tell me if you have a library . . . a book club . . . a pub! ;)

IMG_0067 P1000216I know, as I go, I’m going to find amazing characters. (Some people have already been written into the next book.) Authenticity is something publishers look for from their authors and readers demand it. I can’t think of a better way to maintain author authenticity than to become part of a community.

That’s where #4 on my list comes in, of course.

All work and no play would make Jenn’s characters far too cliché. (I also like the occasional rhyme.) So, going to the pub is now official research.

Maybe pub research should be higher on that list.  Here I am hangin’ at Port Broughton (SA) and reading at Ulmarra country pub in Northern NSW.  Life doesn’t get much better than beer and books!

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Please join me as I #WriteRoundOz.

­­­­­­­­­You can connect with Jenn on:

Website:        www.jennjmcleod.com

Twitter:          @jennjmcleod

Facebook:      Jenn J.McLeod -Author  &/or Readers of Jenn J McLeod Group

three books quartet

 

 

SofLS tour banner

Review: Season of Shadow and Light

seasonSeason of Shadow and Light by Jenn J. McLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of publisher (in conjunction with blog tour ~check out my stop tomorrow with author’s guest post)

This is my first Jenn J. McLeod and I was a little intimidated with the size (almost 500 pages!) after finishing 2 books which were slow to pick up. However, I was hooked by Season of Shadow and Light by page 3 and I, seriously, said out loud, “thank God!” I don’t know if anyone else found this but I was intrigue by the randomly-kinda-creepy incident; it probably had something to do with the reference to ‘long lost love’. Yep, I’m another sappy reader ;)

Season of Shadow and Light is more than just romantic love. It is also a tale of familial love; of loving someone so much that you would do everything to protect them. But what does protecting them mean? Is it best to keep a secret as such? Is it best to manoeuver for a ‘normal’ family life to ensure the least disruption all around?

Paige has had a pretty tough time in the last 2 years; recovering from a stroke and a miscarriage which basically terminated her career, she’s no longer sure of her identity. There seems to be a conspiracy that drove Paige to go on a holiday in a small-in-the-middle-of-nowhere town but which found her in woop woop town instead. The most unlikely circumstance found Paige with her daughter, Matilda, and Nana Alice living at a place where the long-kept secret is threatened to unravel. You really can’t keep much of a secret in a small town.

Aiden was firstly introduced as a grump but surely, everybody’s entitled to a bad mood now and again. After receiving the biggest blow of betrayal, Aiden had no other choice but to return home. As Paige and Aiden are thrown in together more and more, it was patently clear that they found in each other a best friend. I’ve really enjoyed the easy interaction between Paige and Aiden.

Nana Alice was not enjoying this trip at all. She didn’t want to go but neither could she let Paige go without her. She was tense pretty much the whole time and her attitude with Paige was hot and cold. Alice always thought honesty is the best policy so this secret is weighing her down but yet she’s promised to keep it. I found Alice to be the most interesting character in this book; a very tightly-held together lady but this lady’s got some pluck!

There were a number of perspectives in Season of Shadow and Light, Paige’s primarily but there were snippets of Aiden, Alice, and another’s in the last part of the story. It was pretty easy to distinguish the perspectives by the feelings they exude –each of their voices were unique and their feelings real. I was quickly drawn into the story (page 3, remember) and it was told a good even pace until nearly the end. I found the ending a bit rushed but I guess after 450 pages, you need to wrap it up.

Season of Shadow and Light is a cleverly woven tale with each thread being laced tightly together, some with fancy knots, with no loose thread left behind (even the ‘random incident’ had a resolution!). If enjoy a story of self-discovery, of betrayal and healing, of lies and trust, I’d recommend Season of Shadow and Light.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Turtle Reef

turtle reefTurtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Jennifer Scoullar’s Currawong Creek was the first Aussie rural romance I’ve ever read –it was sweet, it was heart-warming. It won me over and made me want to read lots more of the genre. Hence, my interest in Turtle Creek. Scoullar’s love for nature truly comes alive in these pages and is beautifully highlighted in this tale of romance.

It was a bit of a tough first half to read. It was slow to engage and there were a few roll-the-eyes moments for me. I just couldn’t connect with Zoe who at first, swore off men and in the next chapter, found herself pretty much fallen for Quinn. Yes, it was repeated that she’s sworn off men and had to work hard to resist Quinn but still she let herself daydream about being with Quinn. I found this whole business frustrating and unbelievable. On top of that, I also found Quinn to be quite aggravating (most especially when he decided what Zoe should drink, TWICE!). I just couldn’t get into this romance story.

The mystery part of the story was quite enjoyable. I liked the way clues were dropped and Zoe’s spunk in taking on the investigation. The resolution, however, deflated me. I think, being a mystery buff, I expected some sort of twist or at least, something a little more convoluted. This might have to do with having just finished a mystery/thriller novel prior to reading this book.

The best bits about this book, however, was the prose on nature. Scoullar trotted out one after another amazing pieces of this world (eg. dolphins, octopus, dugongs, etc) in such a skilful way of weaving into the story without it all being too much. Turtle Reef is basically an invitation to the readers to enjoy and protect this beautiful world we have been blessed with.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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