Book Review: The Heart of the Moors by Holly Black

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Rating: ★★★.5
RRP: $16.99 AUD

A huge thank you to Scholastic Australia for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Holly Black comes a captivating original novel set between Disney’s Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, in which newly-queened Aurora struggles to be the best leader to both the humans and Fair Folk under her reign; her beau, Prince Phillip, longs to get to know Aurora and her kingdom better; and Maleficent has trouble letting go of the past.

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This was a really quick and enjoyable spin on the Maleficent tale. It had a lot of Holly Black’s signature faerie twists which I loved and, as usual, she created a very atmospheric world. The story was very short though and not as fleshed out as I would have liked, however, I understand that this is a middle grade fantasy as well as being a stand alone so that’s completely understandable. It was great! Just not exactly what I would usually read as an adult woman, but still a really fun read!

The only Maleficent story I have ever known is the one I watched as a child when I would ask to watch Sleeping Beauty over and over again! Side note, I was terrified of Maleficent in that movie and my Nan coined the name “Nasty Knickers” for her because it would make me laugh and I was less inclined to run screaming when she appeared on the screen! So when I started reading The Heart of the Moors it was nice to see a different side to Maleficent and the relationship between her and Aurora that was so at odds with the story I grew up with.

I adore Holly Black and I really love what she brought to this tale. It felt like I was reading a proper fairytale, complete with a daring prince, a headstrong queen and lots and lots of magic! As I have noted previously, this isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up as an adult, however, I would highly recommend it to a younger audience. It was truely a lot of fun to read and I loved getting more of a back story to the characters I grew up watching. It’s actually made me want to watch the Maleficent movie now (I write as I flick over to Disney+)

Overall, this is a really lovely, captivating read that I believe would get any young reader swept away into the fantasy genre. It’s a solid 3.5 stars for me, but I can imagine it would be much higher had I read it as a Middle Grader!

Book Review: Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

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Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

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Why is this over!? It can’t be over! Can someone please contact Holly and let her know we’d like a whole novel of Jude and Cardan just living their lives and interacting with their cute-as-heck sass.

Queen of Nothing picks up right where The Wicked King left us. Jude is in exile and High King Cardan is on the throne in Elfhame. When Jude’s twin sister Taryn arrives at Jude’s door with some interesting news, Jude is persuaded to return to Elfhame in Taryn’s place.

This was everything I was hoping for! It was such a brilliant ending. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer (which is hardly a complaint really, I’m just super greedy when it comes to Cardan Greenbriar). It was such a fantastic story and I actually enjoyed this one more than the first two (if that’s even possible).

The story flowed perfectly. I loved the fact that this book focused a lot more on our favourite characters and their relationships and that the more political aspects weren’t as prominent (don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of intrigue, but it just seemed to be more enjoyable in this one! Less plotting and more action!)

It was such a satisfying conclusion to a series I have absolutely adored. I will thoroughly miss these characters and will definitely have to have another read through of the entire series at some point, but until then… I am so happy with how this story wrapped up and I highly recommend picking this series up if you haven’t already.

overall this was an utterly magical and whimsical fairy tale. I absolutely adore the wicked and eccentric vibe of the faeries in Holly Black’s work! I finished this is a matter of hours, it was so readable! But seriously, can we just get another book of Jude and Cardan being perfect?

Book Review: The Man in the Water by David Burton

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Rating: ★★★.5
RRP: $19.95 AUD

A huge thank you to Aussie YA Bloggers and UQP for providing me with a copy of this book as part of a blog tour!

Synopsis:

On the first day of year 10, Shaun sees a dead body. 
When Shaun finds a body floating in the lake of a quiet mining town in outback Queensland, he immediately reports it to the police. But when he returns to the site with the constable, the body is gone. Determined to reveal the truth, Shaun and his best friend, Will, open their own investigation. But what they discover is far more sinister than they expected, and reveals a darkness below the surface of their small town.

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I actually enjoyed this. Although I’m not sure if “enjoyed” is the right word for it. This was such a vivid murder mystery set in outback Queensland, but it felt like a hell of a lot more than just a “murder mystery” too. It was gripping, easy to read and, in my opinion, perfect for young adult readers. Growing up in Australia myself added a totally unique and relatable understanding of the vernacular in this story too which was really fun. The Man in the Water covers a lot of important topics such as grief and suicide, and the effect it can have on those left behind in a really seamless way along side the main plot.

The story  follows 16-year-old Shaun, who finds a body floating in the lake of the quiet mining town he calls home. After finding the body, Shaun immediately reports it to the police only to find the body has disappeared once they arrive back at the lake. Not only is Shaun having a hard time getting people to believe him about the body, but he’s also dealing with his own grief having lost his father the year prior.

In terms of the plot, this was really fast paced and interesting. The characters were all very raw and realistic which I enjoyed and it was actually really fun reading a book set in Australia. I don’t often do it, so it was fun having an insider understanding of the people, places and language. However, as an almost thirty year old woman and most definitely not the intended audience for this book, at times I found following a teenage-boy-turned-detective a little tedious, but again, this book is intended for younger readers who I am sure would find it gripping and binge worthy.

Over all I liked this. It covered some intense topics with grace and candour, the characters were wonderfully real and the story itself was plot twist after plot twist! I absolutely didn’t see the ending coming and would highly recommend this to young readers interested in the murder mystery type genre. 3.5 stars!

Once again, a huge thank you to UQP and Aussie YA Bloggers for allowing me to be part of this blog tour!

Book Review: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: Paperback $17.99 AUD | Hardback $24.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Pan Macmillan for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after… 

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place… 

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

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Ok, so it’s taken me a while to process my thoughts and feelings when it comes to this book! Originally I was going to give it 4 stars, but after much thought, I’ve decided that although it was completely different to Carry On, it was still bloody brilliant and deserves all the stars in the universe just like Carry On did.

Wayward Son takes us on an entirely new adventure! Our heroes are off on a road trip across America, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. There is an interesting overarching plot that I’m sure we will get more of in the next book. Unfortunately for me, the one think I loved most about Carry On was lacking in Wayward Son. It wasn’t worse than Carry On, just really different!

Carry On was driven wholeheartedly by Baz and Simons relationship development. After the events in Carry On, I suppose I expected to see these characters healing and working through all that trauma together, however there seemed to be little to no character communication. To put it bluntly, I wanted more fluffy SnowBaz! Now it’s completely understandable that these characters would be dealing in their own way and as I have mentioned before, this story was still fantastic. But I did spend a lot of this book hanging out for at least some sweet moments between the boys. Having said all this though, we do get a few lovely moments, it just didn’t feel like enough for me!

Aside from my slight disappointment with the lack of emotional SnowBaz content, the other characters were awesome. We got a new face in this book and he’s easily snuck his way into my heart! I still haven’t got much time for Agatha, but hopefully in the coming books we get to see more sides of her because I’m sure she’s capable of being a total badass. Penny as usual was sassy, strong and incredible.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! It didn’t feel much like a continuation of Carry On, but the back of the book just about states that itself! It’s an entirely new story with the same gorgeous characters. Just be prepared to feel a little… winded when you finish. BRING ON BOOK THREE I SAY! 5 stars!

Once again, a huge thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of Wayward Son in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth By Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Publication Date: 2nd July 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.

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This was incredible, heartbreaking and thought provoking. I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet that hasn’t watched the Pan’s Labyrinth film, but after reading the book, I’ll definitely be watching the movie. This was a beautifully dark, magical journey from start to finish and I loved every second of it! Written by the film director and Cornelia Funke, this book gives new insight into the 2006 film.

Pan’s Labyrinth (for those few, like me, who haven’t seen the film.) is a dark fantasy tale that follows 11-year-old Ofelia. After picking up her life, along with her pregnant mother, and moving to the secluded home of her new stepfather, the tyrannical and sadistic Captain Vidal, Ofelia finds herself drawn into a world of fairytale fantasy. But, like most fairytales, all is not what it seems.

This book was a-ma-zing! Each scene was written in such a way that you felt as though you were a spectator in these characters lives, like you could be walking in and out of this world watching their every move. The world building was rich and atmospheric and had an incredible knack of making me feeling completely uneasy. From the very beginning I found it hard to discern who to trust and who to fear most. It was done so well, that the feeling of unease seemed to stick with me well after I had put the book down. It even chased me into my dreams on a few occasions!

I would like to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. Set in 1944, in Nazi-held Europe, there is a lot of brutal content that could make some readers feel uncomfortable. However, it all combines perfectly to create a dark and menacing read. The characters felt completely raw and real, which I think is what this book is all about at the heart of it. Human emotion, good, bad and truly evil.

Honestly, I cannot fault this book. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s probably one of my favourite reads of the year! The beautifully written story, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations combine to create a mesmerising reading experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and bawl my eyes out some more.

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely By Brigid Kemmerer

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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This was great! I enjoyed it. I would say it has a very similar feel to the ACOTAR series while reading, but probably aimed more at a slightly younger audience. Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and will definitely continue the series!

A Curse So Dark And Lonely follows Harper, a teenage girl, swept away from her home in Washington DC by Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard, to Emberfall, a fairytale-esque Kingdom, currently cursed by a powerful enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for Harper to fall for Prince Rhen. But with very little time before the prince is doomed to live as a beast forever and his people are left without a ruler, Harper struggles to know her true feelings. With Emberfall slowly going to ruin, Harper must navigate her way through love, loss, war and heartache.

I actually really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It felt fresh and different, while not straying too far from the original source material  for the reader to know it’s a retelling of a classic fairytale. The novel was right up my alley in terms of genre, and the romance was very sweet. However, I do get the feeling that a love triangle will be a predominant part of the next instalment as there were quite a few moments that it was hinted at and slowly built upon. The love triangle troupe is something I really dislike, so I hope that the author chooses to go a different route or does it in a way I am able to enjoy.

I loved the rich world building! I felt like I was right there in Emberfall with Harper, Rhen and Grey. Speaking of which, the characters were fantastic! I loved that we were given a really strong, female main character with cerebral palsy. It’s not something I have ever seen represented in a YA book before, so it was really great seeing it represented so respectfully. Despite the hints of an impending love triangle, I actually really liked both the male leads and found them both equally as interesting and charismatic. Although, personally, I wouldn’t go past a Commander of the Royal Guard! Ha!

Overall, the story was great! There were a couple of things I didn’t overly enjoy, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wanting to pick the book up and devour it in a matter of hours. I really liked this retelling, and with the way it ended, I look forward to reading the next instalment!