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Review: The Orphan Sky

The Orphan Sky
The Orphan Sky by Ella Leya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gem of a find when searching for a book to fit a reading challenge! Who would have thought that I’d find a book set almost completely in Azerbaijan?! The author herself was born there and emigrated to the US in late 80s. This book, therefore, seems to be set at the time when she would herself been a teen in Azerbaijan. The main protagonist, Leila, is a piano prodigy and it seems the author herself was a talented musician in her own right. It’s very interesting to know that the way of life reflected in this book most probably reflects the author’s own.


This novel opens with Leila in her 30s seeking closure of some sort. The story follows as she traced the events in her youth which brought her to her current dilemma. It is a coming of age story as well as a love story from which a parallel to a mythical tale of the Maiden Tower (an actual mysterious monument in Azerbaijan). In her mid-teens, Leila was a good girl; focused on her future as a pianist and firm in her belief of Communism. She was instructed to ‘spy’ upon a shop owner suspected as an American mole. What she found, however, was a talented boy with an arty soul that complemented her own. The way of true love, however, is never straight…

Despite my frustration of Leila’s naivety (how could she again trust that snake who she knew manipulated her earlier downfall?!), I felt that is a true reflection of her rearing; she’s had everything handed to her previously so it feels like she hasn’t any resources of her own! The Orphan Sky is a blend of legendary love in the modern world; a story full of treachery and heartbreak yet there is always hope.

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Review: The House of Silk

The House of Silk
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a new mystery for Sherlock Holmes and it is told by his trusted companion, Dr. John Watson. The author’s note at the back of the book said that he was approached by the trustee to write this. Dr. Watson has reached a ripe old age and is writing down some last memories he had of Sherlock Holmes; ones which he previously could not have published. As Holmes and many other protagonists had passed away and Watson’s plan to have this manuscript locked away until he also has passed, it was deemed safe to set this out on paper.

Watson has been married for about a year when he found himself visiting his old friend, Holmes, on Baker Street and of course, once again involved in his adventure. What began as a request of help from a frightened man turned sinister when his stalker was found dead. However, as always, things are never as they seem especially with Sherlock Holmes at its centre. They sought Mycroft’s assistance for information and they received advice to stay away. Because it’s Sherlock Holmes, a mystery can never stay a mystery! He plunged directly into the whirlpool and by a conspiracy of the highest degree, he found himself in prison accused of murder. With his usual resilience, bountiful resources, and great bolt of energy, Sherlock Holmes once again proved himself to be the greatest detective of the time.

Overall, I thought this book to be fairly successful in emulating Dr. John Watson’s original story telling. The language (which the author also has acknowledged at the end of the book) was modernised a little so as “not to put-off” today’s readers. The mysteries themselves, I think, was worthy of Doyle’s own though one particular perversion probably was not publish-able back then. I have no doubt that such things may have existed though I’m not sure if Doyle would ever have thought to write such things. Other than that, a great adaptation of Sherlock Holmes & his sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

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Review: Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you think Rebels of the Sands was amazing, wait ’til you read this Mind-Blowing sequel! Oh My Goodness! This was a yarn that kept pulling at your heart string at every stitch and The Ending… boy, it’s a ‘rug-pulled-out-from-under-me’ moment. This book is Epic and is easily my favourite book of the year (I know it’s only mid Feb but I do think there’s very little chance of it being topped up – YES, it is that good!). Alwyn Hamilton has done an absolutely fantastic job; Traitor to the Throne is a tightly knit tale despite all the twists and turns, she’s got it all under control. I’m exhilarated and exhausted, at the same time; it feels like I’ve just been through a sandstorm. The sand story gets everywhere…

Note: I bought this book as soon as I saw it at the store. I rarely ever gush about books like this so that alone should tell you just how FABULOUS this book is. For now, I need to be left alone, a book hangover of the worst kind; here’s to hoping that no one needs anything from me at work today 😥

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Review: Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop
Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop by Amy Witting
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I purchased this book, I bought it because:
1. I like the sound of the title, and
2. the cover fits a task for a reading challenge.
I didn’t realise that this was a follow-up to a book, I for Isobel which I’ve actually read a few years ago though I only vaguely remembered. I read it but I did NOT understand it which is why it remains “un-rated” on my shelf despite being read. Hence, I started reading Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop with trepidation. I don’t know whether I’ve grown up a little in the past few years or what but I actually enjoyed this book. Hence, the 4-stars’ rating.

The novel opens with Isobel’s struggles as an aspiring writer. She’s just taken her first determined step to commit herself as a writer. She’s quit her steady but dead-ending job, having to leave home because of this and found herself in a boarding house without having much left for food. This first part of the book was rather confusing though that is because Isobel herself is confused… this was made obvious when the state of her health was revealed and she suddenly found herself in a sanatorium. It is here, through her interactions with others and certain friendships or even enmities, that she began to accept herself and in doing so, flourish.

“Is it possible to cause so much misery to another human being, simply by being oneself? she wondered, feeling a reflection of that misery. No help for it; she must continue to be herself.”

As always, reading is subjective and what I learnt from this book is probably different from others. I did find this book to be very reflective and rather thought-provoking. With a diverse set of characters to complement and/or as foils to Isobel, Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop is an engaging read. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the earlier book as this book can well stand on its own.

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Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Alison Goodman has once again lived up to my expectations! They’re very tall, let me assure you… If you loved, The Dark Days Club then you would absolutely be blown away by Dark Days Pact. If you think The Dark Days Club was okay & a bit slow, Gurl, you are in for The Ride of Your Life!

Lady Helen is now in Brighton. She is ‘recuperating’ from her illness but really she’s training hard to become a Reclaimer. The Grand Deceiver is coming though and there is division in the Club but most of all, what’s wrong with Lord Carlston? The answer to this last question totally heart-crushing! Even as Helen likes to think that she’s a logical creature, the answer lies elsewhere.

This was a fairly thick book and I read it in 3 (work)days… I could’ve read it in a single sitting but you know adulthood really ruins my reading life! The Dark Days Pact is a surprisingly complex book. It started quite gently and the first layer of deception was acceptable as a reasonable twist to the story but then there’s another and another AND another! It’s a snowball effect that you just cannot see how this will end. The irony is that these so-called Reclaimers and their associates are involved in deception just like those the Deceivers they are supposed to regulate…

I’ll finish with a warning: around the halfway mark, this book becomes completed UNPUTDOWNABLE. There were twists upon twists (plot) and then the feels… your heart will be squashed, pulverized, bandaged, and once again mangled beyond recognition. I am in pure agony waiting for book 3.

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Lost Girl

Lost Girl
Lost Girl by J.C. Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite my best intention to avoid books with ‘Girl’ in title, the haunted house in this book drew me. Lost Girl is not a psychological thriller and reads more a little like Kate Morton’s stories with alternating timelines. The difference, however, is that this book has only one single perspective and the alternating timelines are mere breaths away. This could have proven confusing but clear breaks and headers between the two made the stories easier to read. ‘Tis not an easy story, however, as it is full of heartache. It’s not a sob-story (despite the teary ending) but a love story; love that cannot succeed if both sides do not work together in an equal partnership.

“You always think love should feel like butterfly wings or sunshine inside you, something sappy. In fact, it feels like a Rottweiler has a grip on your throat.”

Admittedly the secrets aren’t as explosive in revelation as it would’ve been in Kate Morton’s and I really had some difficulty with hauntings in Australia (our sunny disposition makes it a little harder to imagine the dark & gloomy) but I grew to love Em, her secret pain, and Marc, Mr Perfect! Lost Girl is fearful in tone, filled with atmospheric details, and in the end, an absolute delight to read. I’ve definitely lost myself for a while there and in good company.

Many thanks to Harlequin (Australia) for copy of eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: This Love

This Love
This Love by Lea Darragh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a second novella of Lea Darragh that I’ve read. I’ve learnt now that she writes emotionally gut wrenching stories. I mean, isn’t it one of the worse things ever for your bridegroom to die in a car accident on the way to the wedding? And that’s how this story began.

The grief Emerson felt pervaded her whole being and there was nothing left of her. It is time for her to embrace life once again and she feels that she may be ready for it. Life, however, always brings some unexpected twist which sometimes can be the ultimate gift. Personally, I can’t say whether this grief felt by Emerson & Jack are genuine as I’ve never really experience the death of a dearly loved one (*knock wood*). I’m actually not quite sure how realistic it is the story of Emerson & Jack; it just seems to be an enormous step for anyone to make and will require a very very big heart and a ton of courage. Nevertheless, it’s rather nice to think that anyone can.

I was rather amused with the characters checking with Dr. Google. I wasn’t quite amused by the length of the sex scenes which spanned approximately 10% and in one big chunk. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was spread out a bit, I think, but after 5%, I lost interest even though what they’re supposed to have was a lovely act between 2 loving consenting adults. Overall, I rather enjoyed this novella; a quick charming read in yesterday’s heat.

Thanks to Escape Publishing for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Witch’s Pyre

Witch's Pyre
Witch’s Pyre by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Lillian believes our experiences and our worlds make us. I believe our choices make our experiences and our worlds.”

The world is full of, what if or if only… It is one of the reasons why I enjoyed fantasy or alternate worlds/history novels. How does one little change affect the world’s history? It’s really quite hard to see how our decision could have a worldwide effect but sometimes, it’s a domino effect. It is therefore important to make the right decision. What is the right decision though?

I am amazed by Lily and the strength of her conviction. She’s afraid of pain (but who isn’t!) and so has developed a protective hard shell around herself. Can she save the world without saving herself first? Rowan, on the other hand, was frustratingly perfect, bleh! It’s pretty obvious I’m on the wrong team here (even at the reveal at the end, I’m still cheering for the other team!). And you know what, I think I like Lillian better too despite all her flaws and brokenness.

This final book in the Worldwalker trilogy opens within seconds of the ending of book 2 and we are shown a new sort of world or rather a city set apart, protected by the Hive. Things are never as they appear though as Lily and her friends discovered. The ending was a little bit anticlimactic to me… it ended the way it should, the way Lily wanted it to be but… this is my problem, I like the wrong characters and the wrong sort of plots! Nevertheless, it was still a fairly good read with some surprising twists I enjoyed.

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

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Review: The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There have been many fantasy books written on basis of mythology but not that many in relation to Indian mythology. I read one that I remember of, and only because it was rather awful, but then this one was rather beautiful.

I’ve really enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen for the gorgeous world it conjures in my mind especially with the saris and accompanying accessories! I love the dreaminess of it all though not everything is quite right. There were twists upon twists, deceptions and betrayals amid the bloom of true love. And through all these things, Maya needs to trust in her instinct and discover herself.

I don’t know much about the Indian mythology so I don’t know how accurate or loose the interpretation of this in the book. But what I can tell you is that The Star-Touched Queen is a very easy book to lose yourself in; filled with magical creatures, wise words, and secrets, you won’t want to put it down.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for copy of uncorrected proof in exchange of honest review

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Review: Snow Country

Snow Country
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It seems to be the norm in Japan for a married man to go on a holiday, away from his family, by himself. It appears also to be expected that ‘entertainment’ is to be procured. Or that is the impression I’ve got from this novella (and also some other historical Japanese novels I’ve read but this novella, in particular). I find this custom somewhat strange but I don’t think it’s actually that strange for that time setting… it’s just strange for me in my current time period & modern culture.

Shimamura, a wealthy man, goes to an isolated mountain hot spring for a holiday and met Komako, a poor woman turned geisha. Something about Komako attracted him and he continued to return year after year. Komako herself gave her all to this family man knowing nothing good will ever comes of this affair. She can’t seem to stop herself though and continues to run to him each time she finds the slightest chance and even as she surrenders to this passion, she sinks into despair that they will never be together. Shimamura himself cannot or will not give her up…

Honestly, I couldn’t really stand both characters. There was too much fluffing about. I can spare a bit of sympathy for Komako, being poor and somewhat stuck in her position, however, the way she conducted herself, I found, distasteful (undignified?). Other than that, I do so love the atmosphere of the hot spring & the little mountain village!

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