Category Archives: Reviews

Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1)  by Hasfah Faizal

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Published 14 May 2019 |  Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux BYR  |  RRP: AUD$18.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I think the first time I found out about this book was from this teaser by the author:

Such catching lines paired with awesome images of synchronised colours – I really could NOT wait to read this one. This teaser was posted quite early so I saw it quite a number of times and I think that was probably why when I actually read these lines in the book, I didn’t really feel the power anymore… I’ve still really enjoyed the story though.

As the above image hinted, there are 2 perspectives in this story: Zafira, the Hunter, and Nasir, the Prince of Death. I loved Zafira; she’s feisty but she’s also hiding a lot of hurt. I’m not quite so keen on Nasir… he may be hot (there are definite sparks there and I loved that) but I feel like that he’s so focused on one thing that he’s not seeing what he should see and therefore, he looks weak. Then again, this may be a lesson he’d have to learn from Zafi 😉

We Hunt the Flame was a very engaging story. I gorged myself and had to pay for it the next day with only 5 hours of sleep 😪 BUT NO REGRETS! Zafi and Nasir drew me in and there was no stopping til I reached the end. I loved this new world of Arawiya with its diverse settings and casts; it ended up being a much bigger world with a whole heap more people & other beings and worlds away from mine own.

I do wish that secondary characters were developed more but then again, their stories may come later on seeing that it is only the first book.  And that ending! Oooh! He may turn or he may not… I can’t wait to read more of his backstory and his choice!

If you love a historical sort of fantasy, you’ll not be disappointed by this book. We Hunt the Flame will take you to a very cold place then a very hot one and you’ll never want to leave. It is a story filled with hurt, revenge, love, magic, and hope. For now, I’m in a world of pain waiting for the next book.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Hafsah Faizal is an American Muslim and brand designer. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with her family and a library of books waiting to be devoured. We Hunt the Flame is her first novel.

Find Hafsah on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter | instagram  | tumblr  | pinterest

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Review: River of Salt by Dave Warner

River of Salt by Dave Warner

1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him but otherwise Coral Shoals is
paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack. But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to
find the killer.

Published 1 April 2019 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (3 / 5 stars)

So some GR friends were very excited about having access this as ‘Read Now’ on Netgalley and it was so contagious, I caught it. For some reason though, the words (in the description) ‘reborn’ and ‘ghosts’ made me expect something supernatural?! I don’t really know what my frame of mind was like at that time but my head was definitely not screwed on properly because there’s really nothing supernatural here…

Of course, incorrect expectations didn’t help because whatever I expected never happened and that can let to a disappointment. I’m afraid that even after I read other reviews, I still couldn’t get rid of my original thought. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of noir so River of Salt turned out to be just an okay read for me.

I enjoyed the first chapter a lot as it really gave form to the character of Blake Saunders. This is not a novel about the mafia though so he needed to be ‘reborn’ and what better place that some little coastal Aussie town. But even in an out-of-the-way sort of place, there is no avoiding bad things and as Blake tried to get it all sorted, things just kept escalating ’til he came across a ‘ghost’ from his past.

I love the setting (and said descriptions) and secondary characters (especially of the female variety). I’d love to live in a town like that – sounds divine – but I really would not like to live in the 60s as a woman. The mystery itself was astonishing, the climax heartpounding, and the ending, I think this could be a series 😉

Thanks to Fremantle Press via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Dave Warner is an author, musician and

screenwriter. He originally came to national
prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and
his band Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs. In 2017
he released his tenth album When. He has been
named a Western Australian State Living Treasure
and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll
of Renown.

Find Dave on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small -a Review

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Kate and Marine have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School where they formed an intense bond after respective family tragedies. Their friendship seems unshakeable until their final year when only one girl can be selected for a place in the Opera’s company. The physically demanding competition takes an emotional toll, and their support for each other starts to crumble. Marine’s eating disorder begins to control her life as she consumes less and dances more, and Kate discovers the depths of depression and the highs of first love as she falls for the school heartthrob—who also happens to be Marine’s dance partner.

As rankings tighten and each day is one step closer to the final selection, neither girl is sure just how far she’ll go to win. With nuance and empathy, the intense emotions of teenage years are amplified in Small’s debut as the girls struggle with grief, mental health issues, and relationships, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Paris.

Published 21 May 2019 |  Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers |  RRP: USD$17.95

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I couldn’t help myself… A glance at the cover and I’m gone! Yep, I’m definitely reading this one – I just A.D.O.R.E. ballet. When I read the description, I doubted whether this is something I’d like but I still had to try. The bit I didn’t like was that it hinted at a love triangle and that it’ll take over the whole book but it did NOT and boy, I was so thankful!

Bright Burning Stars was so much more than just a love story or even boys. It delved much deeper into the psyches of these two girls who are passionate about dancing but are in a very stressful competitive situation. Their friendship of many years are challenged to the breaking point and their health are at risk to the point of destruction. This was a rather dark read.

Thankfully, this book is told in dual perspective, Kate Saunders and Marine Duval. I am very glad for Marine’s because I think I might have thrown the book if all I had to read was Kate’s point of view. Both Kate and Marine have had their share of childhood grief and each has their own issues in this story but Marine as a character is one you can easily sympathise with while Kate may just make you cry (after wanting to shake her).

As I read Bright Burning Stars & tried to guess the ending (who does that!?), I was reminded of Centre Stage (movie). The more I think of it, the more I see similarities between the 2 but enough differences to exist. Nevertheless, if you love this book, go watch Centre Stage!! And vice versa 😉

My thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for having me on this tour 

About the author

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

Find her on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Review: Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

By the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2018.

Since her sister died, Meg has been on her own. She doesn’t mind, not really—not with Atticus, her African grey parrot, to keep her company—but after her house is broken into by a knife-wielding intruder, she decides it might be good to have some company after all.

Andy’s father has lost his job, and his parents’ savings are barely enough to cover his tuition. If he wants to graduate, he’ll have to give up his student flat and find a homeshare. Living with an elderly Australian woman is harder than he’d expected, though, and soon he’s struggling with more than his studies.

Published 7 May 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I went to see the author’s panel at Sydney Writer’s Festival this year and Christos Tsiolkas, who was facilitating, praised this novel for its quiet splendour (I can’t quite remember the exact phrase he used but it’s something along that line) and I couldn’t agree more! This little unassuming novel was so relatable; it’s easy for me to relate to Andy as I was myself an overseas student but I also found myself to be able to relate to Meg, an older Australian lady.

In Room for a Stranger, we have two seemingly very different people come together and found, in the end, that they were troubled with what is essentially the same thing even if troubles came in different forms. It is very clear that the author knows her subjects well as she drew from her own personal experiences as an “overseas student” and a GP to many older patients.

While the book dealt with our protagonists going about their daily lives: Andy with his parental expectations of good results and Meg with her loneliness, it also did not shy from the hard reality of life: sickness, health, unhappy marriages, and racism (one particularly shocking scene where even I as a reader felt the shame of it and I’ve had my share of scenes…).

A wonderful novel about life – no matter who you are or where you are in life, it is always possible to connect with the stranger next to you.

Thanks to Text Publishing for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

I am a writer, mum and general practitioner from Melbourne, Australia. I have been published in print and online. My writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, Overland, Griffith REVIEW, Sleepers Almanac, The Bridport Prize Anthology, Lascaux Review, Visible Ink, Peril, The Victorian Writer and Seizure. My short story collection, Australia Day, won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript and went on to win the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. My latest book is the novel, Room for a Stranger. If Saul Bellow is right and “a writer is a reader moved to emulation” then I am moved by authors like Richard Yates, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami and Christos Tsiolkas.

Find Melanie on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Review: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.

Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.

Published 16 April 2019 |  Publisher: Swoon Reads  |  RRP: AUD$26.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I just adored Anstey’s debut, Love, Lies and Spies which is a bit like an Austenesque romp. It was just a fun easy read so I didn’t hesitate to pick this one up. The Hummingbird Dagger though sounds a little more gothic and even the cover hinted at something more sinister than her other books. Then again, I just lurve mysteries! This is a win-win for me 🙂

One of my favourite tropes is a protagonist suffering amnesia at the beginning of the novel and having to slowly regain their memories and identity through the plot. It was exciting start to the novel as Lord James Ellerby witnessed a carriage accident in which his brother was involved. A rather horrific accident where he found a lady, thrown out of the carriage, lying battered & unconscious. Immediately, his sense of responsibility kicked in and with a dose of kindness & generosity, he took charge of the care of this lady.

Beth, as she’s called for she could not remember her name, is a likeable heroine although I feel that I could have loved her had she known who she is. Her gentility, intelligence, and sense of independence still shone through her inability to recall her background; and she has guts! Even while she is depended on the Elerby family in investigating her identity, she wasn’t just going to sit there when the safety of herself & her friends are threatened.

The Hummingbird Dagger with its slight gothic overtone was a terrificly fun read. I feel that this is one that I’d happily snuggle up to reread upon a rainy day over & over again.

Thanks to Pan MacMillans Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Cindy Anstey spends her days painting with words, flowers, threads and acrylics. Whenever not sitting at the computer, she can be found—or rather, not found—travelling near and far. After many years living as an expat in Singapore, Memphis and Belgium, Cindy now resides with her husband and energetic chocolate labrador in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Find Cindy on:  goodreads  |  website  | facebook  | twitter

Review: The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal #2) by Zen Cho

Fairyland’s future lies in doubt…

The island of Janda Baik, in the Malay archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Satki wake on its shores under a curse – which has stolen away their memories. Satki plots to banish it in London, as Britain’s Sorceress Royal dares to train female magicians. But the pair journey there via the Fairy Queen’s realm, where Satki disappears.

Distraught, Muna takes her sister’s place at the school, despite her troublesome lack of magic. Then the Sorceress receives an ambassador from the Fairy Court, which has incarcerated her friends – for supposedly stealing a powerful talisman. Their Queen is at her most dangerous, fearing for her throne. For the missing trinket contained the magic of her usurped sister, Fairyland’s rightful heir. Mina must somehow find Satki, break their curse and stay out of trouble. But if the true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first…

Published 12 March 2019 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

This review is in relation to book 2 of the series but each book could stand on its own and therefore I believe no spoilers exist in my review. 

I remembered enjoying Sorcerer to the Crown (book 1 of this series) when I read it a few years ago so I was excited to see a sequel. I was even more excited when I read the description which seems to have more Asian slant (“The island of Janda Baik, in the Malay archipelago…“). There aren’t many fantasy books published in English with Asian slant; until recent times, of course, when social media helped readers like me to come across writers like Zen Cho, Fonda Lee, and many other amazing talents out there.

I know nothing of Malay’s mythology so I’ve no idea whether any part of this book is inspired by such. I just had a lot of fun imagining Mak Genggang (old cranky Malay old lady), the island, and their style of dresses (I had a lot of Batik motif in mind). And then, when setting was moved to Fairyland, I had even more fun imagining all the fantastical fairy things and creatures. Even whilst I used a lot of my own imagination, I was totally helped along by the author as this novel was full of such rich  descriptive prose. This was what I loved most of this novel.

We mostly follow one of the 2 sisters with some chapters in between from perspectives of some English sorceresses. Prunella, who was the main protagonist in the first book, also made her appearance here though as rather minor character so we didn’t really see her develop here. I did identify with the main protag’s earlier character of sensible timidness even if it annoyed me a little however she did develop into someone you’d very much like.

That last bit at the end of the book, though… I just felt that it was forced. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t feel coming at all. I just didn’t feel it. Is it just me? Please tell me if you actually felt that spark cuz I had none :/

Overall, a very fun adventure of interesting (plus quirky) characters in very lush settings. You could read this second book without reading the first but you’ll miss some background on the English side of the ‘history’. So, read both!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Zen Cho is the author of a short story collection (Spirits Abroad, Fixi, 2014) and two historical fantasy novels (Sorcerer to the Crown, 2015 and The True Queen, 2019, both published by Ace and Macmillan). She is a winner of the Crawford Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, and a finalist for the Locus, Hugo and Campbell Awards. She was born and raised in Malaysia, resides in the UK, and lives in a notional space between the two.

Find Zen on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Review: Into the Mists by Serene Conneeley

Into the Mists (Into the Mists #1) by Serene Conneeley

Enter the swirling mists of an enchanted land, and open your heart to the mystery...

Carlie has the perfect life. A wonderful family and a best friend she adores. A house by the beach so she can go surfing after school. A clever, rational mind and big dreams of becoming a lawyer. A future she’s excited about and can’t wait to begin.

But in a split second her perfect life shatters, and she is sent to the other side of the world to live with a stranger. In this mystical, mist-drenched new land, she is faced with a mystery that will make her question everything she’s ever known about her parents, her life and her very self. A dark secret that made her mother run away from home as a teenager. An old family friend who is not what he seems. A woman in blue who she’s not convinced is real. A shadowy black cat that she’d swear is reading her mind. A deserted old cottage she can’t always find. And a circle of wild-haired witches who want her to join their ranks.

Will she have the courage to journey into the mists, and into her own heart, to discover the truth? And can she somehow weave together a life that she’ll want to live – or will she give up and allow despair to sweep her away from the world forever?

Published 19 May 2013 |  Publisher: Serene Conneeley/Blessed Bee |  RRP: AUD$4.99 

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N Nook | iBooks  |  kobo  

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I met the author, Serene, at a bookclub meeting through Read3r’z Re-Vu and what really appealed to me was Serene’s own loveliness and the book covers. I thought the description was decent but didn’t particularly appeal to my reading taste.

It was a struggle to get through the first half of the book because it was just so choked full of grief that I could only read a small portion at a time. It should be acknowledged that the author has written it well if it could affect me in such terrible ways. However, I did persevere as I was assured of better things to come.

To be honest, I expected this to be more of a fairy story but if it was supposed to be so, that’s definitely not what I got in this first book. What I did get, however, is some education about paganism. The book lost me a bit here as I must confess that I have no interest whatsoever in paganism and at some parts, I felt that it dwelt a bit too much into theories behind it. However, I think for someone who loves paganism or even if curious, this may be something they’d love to read. They are lovely theories but they’re just not for me.

There was one particular part that I really really liked, and without telling too much, it explored a ‘what-if’ for the protagonist. What I really liked was the way the story was written; I just love this type of story (and I can’t tell you or it would spoiled). And at the end, the book raised quite a few more questions that I’d like to find the answer to so I think I’d try the rest of the trilogy and hope for more ‘what-if’.

Thanks to the author, Serene Conneeley, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Serene Conneeley is an Australian writer with a fascination for history, travel, ritual and the myth and magic of ancient places and cultures. She’s written for magazines about news, travel, health, spirituality, entertainment and social and environmental issues, is editor of several preschool  magazines, and has contributed to international books on history, witchcraft, psychic development and personal transformation.

She is the author of the non-fiction books Seven Sacred Sites, A Magical Journey, The Book of Faery Magic, Mermaid Magic, Witchy Magic and Into the Mists: A Journal, and creator of the meditation CD Sacred Journey. The Into the Mists Trilogy was her first adventure into fiction, and she is currently finishing three Into the Mists Chronicles.

Serene is a reconnective healing practitioner, and has studied medicinal and magical herbalism, bereavement counselling, reiki and many other healing modalities, plus politics and journalism. She loves reading, rainbows, drinking tea with her friends, and celebrating the energy of the moon and the magic of the earth. Her pagan heart blossomed as she climbed mountains, danced in stone circles, trekked along pilgrimage paths, wandered through ancient cathedrals and stood in the shadow of the pyramids on her travels, and she’s also learned the magic of finding true happiness and peace at home.

Find Serene on:  website  |  goodreads  |  facebook   |  instagram

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Serene! 😀