Release Day Review – ‘Piranesi’ by Susanna Clarke

TITLE: Piranesi
AUTHOR: Susanna Clarke
GENRE: Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 160 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Bloomsbury Australia on September 15th, 2020
RRP: $27.99 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Piranesi is a stunning, dreamy tale that’s rich with atmosphere and mystery. The protagonist seems content living in solitude in a splendidly impossible House with an infinite number of rooms containing all kinds of strange and surreal sights, with tides moving through the lower Halls and clouds reigning in the upper Halls. He resides in the middle Halls and spends his time cataloguing what surrounds him, like the pattern of the tides or the position, size and subject of the multitudes of statues. 

While Piranesi is happy to devote his entire life to appreciating the beauty of the House, it’s clear to the reader that there is something dreadfully wrong. The mystery slowly unfolds from the off-hand observation that Piranesi isn’t his name (although he cannot remember what it used to be) to the missing pages in his otherwise meticulously maintained journals to the shifty manner of The Other, whose comments and possession of a ‘shiny device’ hints at greater knowledge of Piranesi’s plight than he’s letting on. Piranesi is so innocent and easily trusting that he believes in every word from The Other when we readers can see how suspicious his behavior is, creating a simmering tension and dread in the background.

To say that this book is magical would be an understatement. Reading this is like entering the wardrobe to Narnia or stepping through the barrier onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters. It transports you to another world of beauty and danger and stark isolation with an endearing sweet and simple protagonist whose entire existence is a mystery. Following him on the journey to self-realization as he unravels the clues to his past is rewarding, enchanting and a little heartbreaking. This is a uniquely creative, spell-binding story told with an effortless charm – if you’re looking to escape this mundane world, open up Piranesi and disappear into the endless Halls of this hypnotic, majestic House.

Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Release Day Review – ‘The Austen Girls’ by Lucy Worsley

TITLE: The Austen Girls
AUTHOR: Lucy Worsley
GENRE: Historical YA fiction
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 320 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Bloomsbury Australia on May 19th, 2020
RRP: $15.99 AUD (paperback)



Would she ever find a real-life husband? Would she even find a partner to dance with at tonight’s ball? She just didn’t know.

Anna Austen has always been told she must marry rich. Her future depends upon it. While her dear cousin Fanny has a little more choice, she too is under pressure to find a suitor.

But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing?

The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?

In this witty, sparkling novel of choices, popular historian LUCY WORSLEY brings alive the delightful life of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before.

Jane Austen still inspires countless stories to this day with dozens of variations upon her classic novels and even stories based on Jane herself! The Austen Girls takes an interesting approach by including Jane as a important secondary character, but focusing on her (real-life) nieces Fanny and Anna dealing with the pressure of making their come-out to society at 16 and starting the husband hunt.

Reading about their struggles makes me feel very lucky that women no longer have to rely on marriage to secure their future and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get married! But in the 1800s, this was of the utmost importance leaving even headstrong Anna to suffer from nerves and flirt with disaster in her race to lock down a husband.

Shy sensitive Fanny is the Austen girl I most related to and rooted for, being the more sensible and responsible of the pair (I have a type, I preferred Elinor to Marianne too). Her quiet friendship with the local vicar even though her parents said nothing more would ever be possible made me hope for her to find her happy ending. I cheered for Fanny as she slowly stretched her wings and tentatively reached for her own goals outside of what she was instructed to desire, with the support of Aunt Jane.

A touching and occasionally bittersweet coming-of-age story with vividly drawn heroines supported by a delightful Jane Austen characterization I haven’t seen before and found utterly charming. Austen lovers or fans of historical novels will enjoy this one!⁣

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.


Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘The Gravity of Us’ by Phil Stamper

Title: The Gravity of Us
Author: Phil Stamper
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Date: by Bloomsbury Australia on March 17th, 2020


Blurb from Goodreads:

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

I really enjoyed reading The Gravity of Us which has such a cool and unique premise. The protagonist’s father has been selected as a candidate for NASA’s next mission to Mars and without any warning, Cal’s unceremoniously uprooted from New York to Texas where his family joins the media circus that surrounds the Orpheus mission. However his frustration at having his life derailed is alleviated when he meets the handsome son of another astronaut and a mutual attraction develops!

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ARC Review – ‘Havenfall’ by Sara Holland

Title: Havenfall
Author: Sara Holland
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 320 (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on March 3rd, 2020
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


Blurb from Goodreads:

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

This is my first time reading Sara Holland’s work and it certainly won’t be the last! I’ve heard her name in YA fantasy circles, but haven’t had the chance to pick up a book of hers until Bloomsbury kindly sent me an ARC for Havenfall.

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Book Review – ‘The Sleeper and the Spindle’ by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sleeper and the Spindle
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 72 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on December 3rd, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

This is a clever and enchanting fairytale retelling and mash-up of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White with surprising twists and absolutely beautiful illustrations. I wouldn’t have picked this up myself as I don’t normally read children’s books or short stories, but as the publisher was kind enough to gift me with a copy, I had a flick through and enjoyed it for what it offered. I loved the creepy atmosphere and how effectively the author sent chills down my spine, I wasn’t expecting this to be as dark as it was and that was a fun surprise!

At 72 pages including the artwork, this is a very quick read that left me craving more – it’s a tasty morsel, but definitely feels like an entree that makes you eager for the main course and unfortunately it ended way too soon for my liking. There were loose threads left hanging and so much potential to be expanded into a longer story, but then it just ended.

However, I think it would be just right for the attention span of a younger audience and this would be a wonderful reading experience to share with a child. The story is delightfully whimsical, there’s a lot of discussion points that arise from the writing choices and so much fantastic detail in the illustrations to keep them captivated.

Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.


Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ PLUS Excerpt of Interview with Brigid Kemmerer

Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA fantasy
Word/Page Count: 464 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on January 21st, 2020
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


Blurb from Goodreads:

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ is the highly anticipated sequel to ‘A Curse So Dark and Lonely’, which shifts from the perspective of Harper and Rhen to fan favorite Grey and a new female protagonist, Lia Mara. This book deals with the fallout from Grey’s discovery of his status as the true heir to the throne and possessing latent magical abilities as well as Lia Mara’s efforts to broker peace between Emberfall and her kingdom of Syhl Shallow, despite her mother’s intent to dominate and conquer.

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Review – ‘Harry Potter – Spells & Charms: A Movie Scrapbook’ by Jody Revenson

Title: Harry Potter: Spells and Charms – A Movie Scrapbook
Author: Jody Revenson
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 48 pages (hardcover)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on September 17th, 2019
RRP: $29.99 AUD (hardcover)


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Packed with inserts, concept illustrations, and behind-the-scenes photography, Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook is a guide to the spells and incantations of the Harry Potter films.

This magical movie scrapbook takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of iconic spells and charms—from Expelliarmus to the Patronus Charm, and even the three Unforgivable Curses. Detailed profiles include concept illustrations, set photography, and fascinating reflections from the actors and filmmakers about bringing different spells and charms to the big screen. Fans can also relive key scenes in the films when these spells are utilized, including Professor Flitwick’s first Charms class, the first task of the Triwizard Tournament when Harry summons his broom with the Accio spell, and the attack at the Great Lake where Harry uses Expecto Patronum against a swarm of Dementors. Filled with a wealth of bonus inserts, Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook is a must-have collectible for all Harry Potter fans.

I love the idea of this interactive scrapbook which not only provides a thorough magical education on all the spells performed in and out of Hogwarts, but is also jam-packed with fun trivia, sneak peeks behind the scenes with the cast & crew and gorgeous artwork.

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ARC Review – ‘Dark Blade’ by Steve Feasey

Title: Dark Blade
Author: Steve Feasey
Genre: YA, Epic Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on August 5th, 2019
RRP: $15.99 AUD (paperback)


Blurb from Goodreads:

A sweeping epic fantasy perfect for fans of the Summoner trilogy by Taran Matharu and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


Lann knows nothing of his mysterious past, but by his fifteenth birthday he will come face to face with destiny. For Lann must wield the Dreadblade, an ancient sword forged to defeat terrible monsters.

Across the mountains a King has been murdered. His daughter, Astrid, is a warrior with no desire to bear the crown. Only she can uncover her father’s killer before her brother is framed for the crime.

Evil is stirring. Lann and Astrid are the kingdom’s last defence. Together, they must face the greatest darkness their world has ever known.

Dark Blade is the first book in the Whisper of the Gods series and is the perfect introduction to epic fantasy for younger readers. In my early teens, I was obsessed with The Belgariad series by David Eddings and this follows the same tried-and-true path in which a simple farm boy finds himself caught up in an epic quest to defeat true evil, a task which only he is qualified for (despite his inexperience) due to the whims of destiny and meddling gods.

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ARC Review – ‘Call It What You Want’ by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Call It What You Want
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 384 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on July 1st, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


Blurb from Goodreads:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

I adored Brigid Kemmerer’s YA fantasy novel, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, so I was happy to receive an early copy of her new contemporary for review. I had a bit of anxiety hoping that I would enjoy this genre from her as much as I had with fantasy, but that concern turned out to be completely unwarranted, this was a fabulous read!

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Book Review – ‘We Are Blood And Thunder’ by Kesia Lupo

Title: We Are Blood And Thunder
Author: Kesia Lupo
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 448 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on May 6th, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a sealed-off city, it begins with a hunt. A young woman, Lena, running for her life, convicted of being a mage and sentenced to death. Her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear – those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. She knows only too well how the people of Duke’s Forest loathe magic. Years ago she escaped before her powers were discovered. But now she won’t hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud unites them. It descends over the dukedom and devastates much in its wake. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine … Only Lena and Constance hold the key to destroying the spell. Though neither of them realise it, they need each other. They are the blood and they have the thunder within.

What a riveting fast-paced fantasy debut this is! I’m so impressed with the author for crafting two compelling female protagonists and a well-written standalone story for her first outing in this genre.

I’m a little over those long drawn-out series that end on cliffhangers in every installment, so it’s a blessed relief to experience a fully self-contained story in this book! I really appreciate the compact storytelling with clear plot arcs that are built on and paid off by the end of the book, complicated character dynamics that continuously evolve throughout plus fantastic world-building, all conveyed in beautifully flowing easy-to-read prose. There was a ton of detail communicated effortlessly without the reader being bogged down in exposition, and I could visualize everything so vividly.

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