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Review: The Red Queen

The Red Queen
The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Approximately 30 years after the publication of the first book, The Obernewtyn Chronicles is finally finished. Just like Harry Potter, each instalment is bigger than the previous with this seventh book notching up an astonishing 1,120 pages! Along with many fans, I was excited to continue on my journey with the Obernewtyn characters as they’ve been part of my life since my teens (about 20 years) and at the same time, a little sad that this is it, it’s time to say goodbye…

Whilst it’s a massive tome, I won’t babble too much because I do believe this book speaks mostly to the fans. It is a tapestry rich in details and so complex I don’t know how Isobelle Carmody keeps them all straight in her head! Some people may find this extremely frustratingly slow as I sometimes feel the need for speed but yet again, I remind myself that this is the last book that I need to savour…

The ending, of course, didn’t really surprise me and will satisfy the fans however the last paragraph surprised me very much as to me, there is a definite Christian undertone which I really did not detect in any of the previous books… I won’t say much more because of spoilers but if you haven’t read the book yet, please refrain from flicking to the last paragraph!

The Red Queen is a beautiful sweeping finale of Elspeth’s quest. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I shed some tears in farewell. Isobelle Carmody, I await your next quest!

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Review: The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I binge-watched Call the Midwife during my maternity leave just over a year ago. I was fortunate in that I don’t have horror birth stories to tell so watching this show was actually enjoyable (yes, I’ve forgotten the pain fairly quickly!). When I found out that this serial is a based on a trilogy of books, of course, I couldn’t resist; I am a reader 🙂

This book is a collection of memories of Jennifer Worth née Lee of the time she was training to become a midwife. In between these memories, she also commented on the state of antenatal care and midwifery with a bit of historical background. This is what was missing from the series though understandably, it probably won’t fit that well but I enjoyed these little tidbits and am very grateful for all those who paved the way so I got a terrific care in my turn.

Despite knowing most of the incidents in the book from the serial, I still enjoyed it very much. I still laughed at the funny moment (Chummy on her bike, Fred with his quails and pigs, etc), got teary at successful births, and heartbroken with the hard times some of these women faced. Most of all, I admire all these women for their courage and resilient in what seems to me impossible situations (I got it 100 times better than them!).

What caught me by surprise is the somewhat spiritual tone. It seems “Nonnatus House” or rather the Sisters of Nonnatus House affected the author quite a bit. Their faith, peace, and joy were puzzlement to her but slowly she began to see that surely it’s based on something bigger than what she can see.

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Review: Firewalker

Firewalker
Firewalker by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was something about this trilogy that disturbed me and I wasn’t quite sure what it was… I started reading this book, Firewalker (book 2 of the Worldwalker trilogy), with some anxiety that I might end up hating it or myself. Now that I’ve finished it, I think it better than Trial By Fire (book 1) and I’ve figured out the reason why this trilogy has made me so anxious!

Firewalker picked up exactly from where Trial By fire left off. I was excited to see both Rowan and Lily in a different world/setting. But what I find I was actually excited about was to see Tristan again… With Rowan along though, this was going to be a rocky trip read. Despite all the angst, Josephine Angelini really has succeed in making this not to be as painful as I usually find love triangles and I actually finished reading this book & looking forward to the finale! If you are like me about love triangles (which is one reason my I could not get into Throne of Glass, ssshhhh), look out for my review on book 3, Witch’s Pyre and I’ll let you know whether you should or should not get into this trilogy.

At the end of my review for book 1, Trial By Fire, I mentioned that I was very curious about Lillian’s motivation. It is still Lily’s book (her perspective only) but we were given glimpses of what Lillian has gone through to make her what she is now. With the violence that was hinted at the beginning, I was terrified of what it’ll be when revealed as I can’t stand violence against women in books. But, it wasn’t at all what I thought and I’m utterly grateful for it. It was a horrible decision she’s had to make but I was too grateful to be proven wrong to feel the wrongness of it.

I am still just as annoyed with Lily though the path she pursued in the later part of this book is very interesting and I’m very curious what book 3 will bring. After the relief of Lillian’s secret, I was still rooting for not-the-right-guy AND I was absolutely gutted at the end of this book. I am hoping against all hope that it’ll turn out differently in the finale but I know my hope won’t come true. I’ll see you all on the other side!

Many thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia; I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are books and then there are BOOKS! I’m talking about those books that permeate your whole soul and haunt your dreams. Yes, I have bookish dreams. Don’t you?! Melina Marchetta’s latest is one of these. If I could, I would’ve read this book in a single sitting but work and kids… such stumbling blocks! But even if I had to stop reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

My first reaction when I found out about this book was jubilation that Melina Marchetta is releasing a new book followed by, oh, wait… what’s this?! It’s not YA! **gasps** Nevertheless, it’s a Marchetta’s, it’s must read. Still, I started with a tad of trepidation but no fear, as within the first few paragraphs, she’s got me in the palm of her hands.

This is a story of someone who has had to repress a part of his inheritance and its consequences. It’s a story of the migrants with brilliant opportunities but circumstances and prejudices conspired against them. It’s a story of a world where being different means being wrong. It’s a story of hatred and love and everything in between. It’s a story of the pursuit of truth and its liberation.

If you haven’t read any Marchetta’s and always thought YA isn’t your cup of tea, you must read this book. She created such a realistic fictional world with well developed characters that you cannot but think must be real. Her characters are always different (or diverse, whichever way you want to look at it) and being different always caused a ripple in a world where homogeneous = safety. Whilst the ending isn’t in anyway sad, I kind of felt tired… about the current state of world and why we cannot all live in mutual acceptance and peace! For the mystery/thrillers lover, I do believe you will love the twist at the end, I certainly didn’t pick it.

I really had no idea what to expect in this adult fiction from a worldwide-fame YA author but in my eyes, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is definitely a success. I am, more than ever, entrenched deeply as a fan because as someone who widely reads across the genres, Melina Marchetta has written books crossing many of my favourites; books which I’ve loved. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a confronting novel of the broken world we have today, the pain of terror attacks, of hate and its consequences.

Postscript: This review is all about what this book makes me feel because it makes me feel so very much, my meter has overflowed. “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil” isn’t just a title, it’s an exhortation. Let’s keep the conversation going…

My thankful heart goes to Melina Marchetta and Viking (Penguin Books Australia) for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Nirvana

Nirvana
Nirvana by J.R. Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nirvana presents a curious post-apocalyptic world. The world is mostly devastated but there are domes of safety where life glitzes on. The virtual world is so advanced and real that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish from real life. Especially for Larissa Kenders, who in losing the love of her life, would prefer the virtual where he can still be found.

I thought it was a fascinating concept though I was mostly confused during the reading. That might be because Larissa is so confused herself and couldn’t get anything straight! In effect, I didn’t particularly enjoy the book. It was a fairly short book though so I reckon it was tough to fit in that much world building (it really was an interesting world).

Thanks to Blue Moon Publishers for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire
Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always like the idea of alternate and/or parallel worlds though I’m not particularly keen on the idea of alter-egos. I guess I’m selfish that way –there’s only ONE of me in this whole universe! Lillian/Lily actually met and clashed in this story. I can understand not liking my alter ego (back to above point) but I found it strange that 1 person can be so different in perspectives or points of actions?

Trial by Fire is mostly told from Lily’s perspective except for some glimpses of other characters’ actions for the readers’ understanding. Unfortunately, I don’t like Lily! I don’t hate her but I found her frustrating a lot of the time. On another note, I found this alternate world very interesting, the dual existence of magic & science, the magical evil creatures, and just the overall brokenness. However, I’m not quite convinced on the magic/science thing or maybe I’m just confused; too much magic, not enough science.

The minor characters are actually of more interest to me than the main characters! I find myself wishing for Lillian’s perspective (though that may actually destroy the mystery which is probably not due to be revealed until later on in the trilogy). Rowan-Lily isn’t giving me the feels either. In fact, I really like Tristan despite his poor-boyfriend-quality but here’s to hoping he’ll improve!

Overall, the world building kept me reading and I am very curious about Lillian’s motivation as this whole thing is based on it. The ending of this first book also intrigues me and I will be picking up book 2, Firewalker , soon.

Many thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia; I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen
Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After Kendra’s harrowing experiences in the first book (and therefore, unsurprisingly, her reluctance to assist in any more crime solving), I have wondered how the authors are going to lure her back in. Of course, what I really wanted to know is how and when Kendra Michaels and Adam Lynch get together! It’s inevitable, right?!

Kendra finally agreed to a blind date arranged by her formidable mother. Despite warnings to keep her acute observation skills to herself, she managed to blurt it all out just a few minutes into the date. What surprising was his reaction! And the fact that she’s dragged him out to a crash/murder scene but still he was rather more intrigued than repelled. However, with a killer artist weaving his murderous web around her and her loved ones, Kendra doesn’t have much time for love.

Sight Unseen is approximately a year after Close Your Eyes which I first found rather surprising. Again, aside from some kisses, this book is fairly clean so I am a little frustrated with how sloooww things are going. On the other hand, I really appreciated the twists at the end! I wasn’t really expecting that since there was this huge big red herring in front of me and I just lapped it up. I should’ve know that it just wasn’t going to be that simple.

An enjoyable second instalment in the Kendra Michaels series; fast paced with a shocking revelation at the end, promising more to come in the third book. I wish I get to see more of Adam Lynch then!

Many thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia; I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Last Photograph

The Last Photograph
The Last Photograph by Emma Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book as it just sounds so sad!

“He walks into the living room and June is dead.”

It has such a beautiful cover though that I decided to get started and see whether I can stomach the sadness. No regrets! I have truly enjoyed this story of healing.

Rook Henderson suddenly found himself un-tethered. His wife has died and he was lost. So he left everything behind and went to Vietnam. His first visit after his work as a photo journalist during the Vietnam War. His son, Ralph, followed him there and together, Rook delved into his past and finally found all he needed to heal.

Each chapter of The Last Photograph has 2 parts, present and past though there was more of the past. We followed Rook in reliving his experiences which led him to be who he is –a man who hid behind his camera. This mode of telling was a little confusing at first as the past / Rook’s secret history is revealed a little at a time and the reader needed a firm grip of Rook’s timeline. It’s heart breaking that it needed a sad event to force you to actually heal and that it took so long! However, Rook’s search for answers ends with a note of hope. I do wonder, though, about June. I would really like to know her perspective; how she hung in there for so long!

The Last Photograph is evocative and poignant. The contrast of the two worlds were staggering and photographically vivid. A novel well worth reading but make sure you have time for reflection.

Many thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia; I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: New Grub Street

New Grub Street
New Grub Street by George Gissing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is centred upon the struggles of literary men especially Edwin Reardon and Jasper Milvain. Edwin Reardon is a married man and is feeling the pressure to write in such a pace to support his family. His future does not look promising nor does his wife looks at him the way he used to remember her to. Jasper Milvain is young and ambitious. Whilst he’s not in such a financial strait, he cannot afford to marry without sufficient dowry yet temptation may prove too great for him to resist.

”…a broad, flabby face, the colour of an ancient turnip, save where one of the cheeks was marked with a mulberry stain; … for moustache, what looked like a bit of discoloured tow, and scraps of similar material hanging beneath his creasy chin represented a beard. His garb must have seen a great deal of Museum service;…his linen made distinct appeal to the laundress.”

I didn’t expect to like this novel as much as I did. It is actually a rather sad novel as these characters struggle with poverty and the effects of such penury have on people and relationships. I find author’s descriptions to be both amusing and depressing.

”Love is one of the first things to be frightened away by poverty.”

There was also the reflection of mismatches in marriages and there were a few in this book. It wasn’t just the absence of money but also of intellect and a little of ‘class’ (though this last point is rather about the lack of education than anything else, I think). Though most characters seem to have deserved their ends in this book, there is one whom I have wished more for.

“It has been repeated often enough that vice leads to misery; will no man declare that misery leads to vice?”

One would wish to believe that strength of character surely will prevail and the romantics (me, for one) would also wish to believe that love prevails over all. The practical side of me knows however that this is just not realistic. The poignancy of this novel really touched me (I even broke down & cried at one point) but it was overall a very enjoyable read and still relevant in today’s world.

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Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife

The Ringmaster's Wife
The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been fascinated with circus in fiction. The Ringmaster’s Wife (I first had to laugh at the title, there are so many ‘Wife’ in title these days) being set in the glam 1920s added an extra sparkle to the glamorous light circus acts performed under. The novel did not disappoint as it weaves an enchanting world of the show, there was also an undercurrent of a dark mystery with touches of romance and ended with sweet hope.

Whilst the main narrative is about Rosamund Easling, there is an additional perspective by Mable Ringling and the lessons Rosamund is learning from her & her story. Rosamund is struggling with her family’s financial difficulties and to marry someone of her parents’ choosing despite of her personal preference. Despite being groomed to as a lady, she is most happy on her horse. When her father sells her beloved horse, she decides to follow her horse over the seas and to see what other things life has to offer her.

The Ringmaster’s Wife is a lovely light read. It is marketed as Christian fiction so it’s clean romance but it wasn’t preachy in any way. There was just mentioned of “higher powers” out there etc but nothing very specific. It is a wonderful story of discovering yourself, of following your dreams, and taking the risk for a future of your own choosing.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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