ARC Review – ‘The Lost Ones’ by Anita Frank

Title: The Lost Ones
Author: Anita Frank
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Horror
Word/Page Count: 464 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Publishers on October 21st, 2019
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

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Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

The Lost Ones takes the typical haunted house trope and elevates it to the next level with an atmospheric historical setting, smart lyrical writing, refreshingly unexpected plot developments and compelling characters that the reader will invest in.

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Blog Tour: ‘Scars Like Wings’ by Erin Stewart

Title: Scars Like Wings
Author: Erin Stewart
Genre: Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 384 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Simon & Schuster on October 1st, 2019
RRP: $17.99 AUD (paperback)

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Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see…

16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?

When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that’s being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green.

The first thing that you should know about this book is that you WILL need tissues. My eyes were perpetually brimming over with tears throughout and I don’t normally consider myself a watering pot! However the story itself isn’t morose and angst-ridden (thank goodness), it’s life-affirming, heartwarming and, as much as our protagonist would hate me saying this, inspirational. But the fact remains that seeing the world through Ava’s eyes in the aftermath of suffering horrific burns from the fire that killed her family is no walk in the park.

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ARC Review – ‘Ninth House’ by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 400 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on October 9th, 2019
RRP: $29.99 AUD (paperback)

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The mesmerising adult debut from Leigh Bardugo. A tale of power, privilege, dark magic and murder set among the Ivy League elite. Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime – the last thing she wants is to cause trouble. Not when Yale was supposed to be her fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world’s most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch.

Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale’s secret societies – societies that have yielded some of the most famous and influential people in the world. Now there’s a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won’t accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder.

Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined.

They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living . . .

Going in, let’s be clear – this isn’t a young adult novel, it’s Leigh Bardugo’s adult debut; it’s extremely confronting at points with references to and on-page depiction of sexual assault, child rape and statutory rape as well as mutilation and general gore. If you feel this may be a potential trigger, please search for more specific posts which outline exactly content is included so you can decide whether this is suitable to read.

I’m really glad that I knew of the trigger warnings going around on social media so that I wasn’t blindsided going into this. I had some qualms about the focus on sexual trauma, but Leigh Bardugo’s tweet discussing how the protagonist’s experiences in Ninth House were drawn from her personal life made me feel that it would be handled sensitively. I’m really glad that I read this book after all because it’s certainly NOT misery porn and none of the scenes depicted are at all gratuitous or feel like they’re included for shock value (although I can only speak for how I perceive it myself).

Now that’s out of the way! How was the book? In a word: AMAZING. 😍

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ARC Review – ‘Into The Crooked Place’ by Alexandra Christo

Title: Into The Crooked Place
Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Allen & Unwin Australia on October 1st, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

A deliciously darker take on YA fantasy? Don’t mind if I do! The central premise of this book is that the best people to save the realms from moral peril is…a bunch of criminals. I’m used to the common trope of heroes on a quest to save the kingdom, but substituting a bickering group of crooks in their place creates a refreshing and entertaining new dynamic!

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ARC Review – ‘Daughter of Lies & Ruin’ by Jo Spurrier

Title: Daughter of Lies & Ruin
Author: Jo Spurrier
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on September 24th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Why do the worst people sometimes make the best family? From the author of Winter Be My Shield and A Curse of Ash & Embers comes the next absorbing Blackbone Witches novel.

‘If they didn’t want to get turned into beasts and used to fuel a ritual, they shouldn’t have attacked a witch. That’s all there is to it.’

There’s something strange brewing in this tinder-dry forest – a girl with a sword and a secret, a troupe of vicious bandits vanished without a trace, beasts that don’t belong and a witch with a macabre plan.

Elodie hasn’t been learning witchcraft for long, but she knows enough to be worried, and the fact that her mentor Aleida wants to pack up and leave in short order isn’t helping to settle her nerves.

Elodie just hopes to get everyone out of this mess unharmed, but it’s looking more unlikely with every passing hour. And when the strange witch’s ire falls on her, Aleida’s wrath sparks a fire that threatens to scorch the earth itself …

This is book 2 in the ‘Tale of the Blackbone Witches‘ series (my review for book 1 is here) and my excitement could not be contained when I got my hands on an early copy of ‘Daughter of Lies & Ruin‘. We find out what comes next for our protagonist, Dee, who is an apprentice to the sardonic, morally grey badass witch Aleida and learning how to wield her own nascent magical abilities.

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ARC Review – ‘The Deathless Girls’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: The Deathless Girls
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 368 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on September 24th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The first thing that drew me to this book was the absolutely stunning cover. And in this case you should ABSOLUTELY judge the book by its cover because the story within is beautiful, lushly drawn and will inextricably twine around your heart.

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Book Review – ‘Serpent & Dove’ by Shelby Mahurin

Title: Serpent & Dove
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 528 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on September 2nd, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year and I’m so glad to report that it blew my socks off as hoped! Serpent & Dove combines two of my favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced-marriage, which meant my expectations were sky high, but kudos to Shelby Mahurin, she became an instant fave author with this spectacular debut novel. ❤

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Review – ‘Emmie and the Tudor King’

Title: Emmie and the Tudor King
Author: Natalie Murray
Genre: YA, Historical Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 304 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Literary Crush Publishing on June 11th, 2019
Available from: Dymocks | Book Depository

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

One moment, Emmie is writing her high school history paper; the next, she’s sitting with a gorgeous 16th century king who vacillates from kissing her to ordering her execution.

Able to travel back to her own time, but intensely drawn to King Nick and the mysterious death of his sister, Emmie finds herself solving the murder of a young princess and unraveling court secrets while trying to keep her head on her shoulders, literally.

With everything to lose, Emmie finds herself facing her biggest battle of all: How to cheat the path of history and keep her irresistible king, or lose him—and her heart—forever.

The elevator pitch for Emmie and the Tudor King is Doctor Who meets Outlander as it revolves around a modern day girl who finds herself back in the 16th century where she is embroiled in court intrigue, royal flirtations and thwarting an impending murder. This is a fun fast-paced YA historical novel that’s perfect wish fulfillment material for any reader who’s dreamed of a whirlwind romance with someone rich, powerful and fabulously attractive! ⁣

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ARC Review – ‘Crown of Coral and Pearl’ by Mara Rutherford

Title: Crown of Coral and Pearl
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on August 5th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

This is a captivating and fast-paced fantasy read that pulled me in from the first line and didn’t let me put the book down til I turned the last page. I thoroughly recommend it as a fun way to spend a weekend. 🙂 I’m all the more impressed at how effortlessly engrossing this was considering it’s the author’s debut novel!

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Book Review – ‘Gods of Jade and Shadow’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 23rd, 2019
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (hardcover)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

I requested this title because I’m addicted to the ‘powerful immortal & bold independent human girl’ dynamic and this is everything I hoped and wished for! This has ruined me for future books, I’m going to keep comparing them to how well that relationship was built up here!

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