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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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 – ‘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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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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Book Review – ‘Contender’ by Taran Matharu

Title: Contender
Author: Taran Matharu
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Word/Page Count: 345 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on June 11th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Introducing an epic new trilogy from Taran Matharu, author of the New York Times–bestselling Summoner series. 

Throughout history, people have vanished with no explanation. A group of teenagers are about to discover why.

Cade is settling into a new boarding school, contemplating his future, when he finds himself transported to another realm. He soon discovers their new world is populated with lost remnants from the past: prehistoric creatures, ancient relics, and stranger still — people. Overwhelmed by his new surroundings, Cade has little time to adjust, for soon he and his fellow classmates are forced to become contenders in a brutal game, controlled by mysterious overlords.

But who are these beings and why did they choose these teens? Cade must prepare for battle . . . because hiding is not an option.

The saying goes not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, what you see is what you get! The immediate impression upon seeing a depiction of the protagonist wielding a sword against dinosaurs is that this is an action-packed heart-pounding roller-coaster ride of a read and that is certainly the case right from page 1.

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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)

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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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ARC Review – ‘The Eyes of Tamburah’ by Maria V. Snyder

Title: The Eyes of Tamburah
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 512 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by HQ Young Adult (subsidiary of Harper Collins) on June 17th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Treasure hunting has never been more dangerous… Tomb Raider meets Poison Study!

New York Times bestselling author Maria Snyder begins an action-packed new fantasy series.

‘He thinks you are the thief…’

Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.

But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince’s soldiers and the Priestess’ deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves…

The last book I read by Maria V. Snyder was a sci-fi romp starting a new series set in the future where humanity has migrated out into the stars and is uncovering the meaning behind alien artifacts. And now here is the start of a brand new fantasy series filled with intricate world-building, non-stop action and a refreshingly unique premise! I’m in awe of authors who can swap genres effortlessly like this. ❤

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