Tag Archives: coming soon

Review: A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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As a bookseller, I can personally attest to the fact that Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series is very popular with customers. I had always entertained the idea of giving her books a try, but with my ever-growing ‘to-be-read’ pile, I kept putting it off. Then I heard that she would be heading to Australia later this year, and I knew the time had come.

And what better way to start than with an advance reading copy of the first book in her newest series,  A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Part fantasy saga, part love story, this book is a perfect example of the emerging ‘New Adult’ book genre, and is essentially a re-told version of Beauty and the Beast, with a bit of faerie lore thrown in for good measure.

The central protagonist and YA female heroine is Feyre, a nineteen-year-old girl who is the sole provider for her family. They live in near poverty just near the border between the human and faerie realms. While out hunting in the woods one day, Feyre kills a wolf. However, this was no ordinary wolf, and soon a huge beast-like creature is on her doorstep demanding retribution. Given the choice between dead and a life imprisoned in the faerie realm, Feyre chooses life. Her captor, the best-like creature, is in fact not an animal, but Tamlin, a very powerful, very deadly faerie lord.

As Feyre whiles away her sentence on Tamlin’s sprawling estate, she finds her feelings for him changing from those of hostility and near-hatred, to a genuine interest in him, and an intense desire for him. But there is trouble brewing in the world of the fae. An ancient power is slowly enveloping the lands, and threatens to boil over into the human realm. Feyre must find a way to stop it in order to save her family, the faerie world, and ultimately Tamlin.

As much as I am an absolute sucker for a good YA/New Adult fantasy book, I am always sceptical when a pick up a new one. This is mostly because there are just so many of these kinds of books around at the moment, and I am always afraid that when I start a new one, it will feel tired, and ‘been-done-before’, and that I won’t enjoy it because it doesn’t feel exciting and new anymore.

As such, I will freely admit that my expectations for this book were pretty low. I fully expected it to be just another YA-style fantasy novel, with predictable outcomes, an uninspired storyline, and cookie-cutter characters.

But A Court of Thorns and Roses surprised me, and it sucked me right in!

The thought of getting back to the book, and seeing what happened next is what got me through many days at work. I think this is definitely a sign that you are enjoying a book, and that it has captured your interest and imagination.

I actually really enjoyed how Sarah J. Maas has cleverly, and very creatively, reimagined and reworked the classic Beauty and the Beast story – you actually forget after a while that this is the creative basis for the story. Maas takes the storyline to such creative and inventive places that it becomes a story of its own, and you only really remember the Beauty and the Beast parallel when small elements of the original story are revealed. The characters are well written, and although Feyre was, at times, a little insufferable, I ultimately did really love her characterisation. Tamlin was the archetypal tortured male lead, but with a bit of a twist that made him an interesting character all on his own. I loved encountering all the different types of fae along the way, as well as the dispelling of some of the classic faerie myths and legends.

Fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series will enjoy her latest offering, as will fans of fantasy novels, and fractured fairytales. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

A Court of Thorns and Rose is due out in Australia on 7th May 2015.

Sarah J. Maas will be doing Q&A and signing sessions at the Brisbane and Adelaide Supanova conventions in November 2015. Check the Supernova website here for dates, times and updates.

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Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

“The bookseller could not imagine what might be more practical than a book…”

[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg. 1]

The two things I love most in the world are books and travel. Without getting into a long philosophical spiel about how the two go hand in hand, I’ll just say that they both let you experience new people, new cultures and new places. So when I was perusing our pile of advance reading copies at work, this book immediately grabbed my attention because it combines my two loves – travel and books.

Jean Perdu runs a bookshop out of a converted barge on the Seine River in Paris. He calls it La Pharmacie Litéraire – the literary apothecary – for he has an unusual gift for being able to see into his customers’ souls for what they most need. For according to Jean Perdu, there is a book for every ailment of the soul.

“Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.

They look after people.”

[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg.19]

However, for the past twenty-one years there is only one person that Jean Perdu has been unable to successfully prescribe a book for – himself. For twenty-one years ago, the woman that he loved abruptly left him; no goodbyes, no forewarning, just a letter that Jean Perdu has not been able to bring himself to open. However, the sudden arrival of a mysterious new neighbour in his apartment building may be just the thing Jean Perdu has been waiting for. And so, one not so special day, Jean Perdu unmoors his literary apothecary and sets off for Provence in search of answers, closure and the ability to heal his own soul.

I am not one who normally finds literary fiction all that riveting, but I absolutely adored this book. It is, in a word, beautiful. The two things that struck me the most were the vivid descriptions of the French countryside, and the wonderfully eclectic and quirky cast of characters, all of whom are so well defined and written, that I half expected them to come leaping out of the pages.

Typically, as in all novels where the main protagonist needs to find themselves to gain closure, Jean Perdu gets more than he bargains for on his impromptu trip, but it doesn’t feel clichéd or cheesy in any way. As Jean Perdu’s second greatest love is books, this novel has lots of literary and book references, each one treated with the reverence it deserves. It gave me a little thrill every time I recognised a literary reference, and every time Jean Perdu mused his feelings about literature, books and life in a way I could completely relate to.

Whilst reading this book, I tried to keep a list of the quotes I loved, but in the end, it just became too impractical because there were so many that I loved, and that resonated with me. This is definitely one of those books where you try to explain to people why you loved it so much, but end up saying “You just have to read it, trust me”.

I would definitely recommend this book to those readers who like to read beautiful books, and to those who have a book addiction like myself. If you have ever looked for closure, called yourself a bookworm, been bitten by the travel bug or simply enjoyed quirky literary characters, then this book is definitely one for you.

Rating: 10/10

This book is due out in Australia on 14th April 2015.

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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Holly Black is most well-known for her Modern Faerie Tale series, and her co-authorship of The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi). So, before I opened her latest young adult (YA) offering, The Darkest Part of the Forest, I knew I would be in for a fantasy/paranormal type novel.

Hazel and her brother Ben live in an odd little town called Fairfold, where the local residents live in a peaceful co-existence with the faeries of the forest. Hazel dreams of becoming a knight and vanquishing evil forces, while Ben dreams of harnessing his otherworldly musical abilities. The town attracts many tourists who want to experience the magic, and occasionally one or two tourists will fall prey to a faerie’s tricks. The locals know how dangerous and unpredictable the fae can be, but they know how to guard against them.

The main tourist draw card in the town is a glass casket that lies in the darkest part of the forest. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie boy who has been there for as long as anyone can remember. Hazel and Ben grow up imagining what it would be like, and what kid of adventures they would have if he were to awaken.

However, none of the townsfolk, not even Hazel and Ben, are prepared for what happens to Fairfold when he finally does.

The thing I loved the most about this novel was how it completely flips stereotypes around. Ben is the more emotionally driven character, and the one who pines and obsesses over an unattainable love interest, whereas Hazel is the strong, heroic lead character who wants to save the day. I loved the character of Hazel, another strong lead female in the YA genre. Of course it wouldn’t be a YA novel if there wasn’t a bit of romance thrown in as well – Hazel and he brother’s best friend Jack, and Ben and the sleeping faerie prince.

This novel toes the line between Children’s and YA genres, which is really the only issue I have with the book. When I first picked it up, I thought I was going to be getting a great offering in the Children’s genre. The more I read, the more I realised it was definitely a YA novel! However, that being said there were times in the novel where I had to roll my eyes a little at how young and childish some parts were. It’s almost like Black couldn’t decide which audience she wanted to write the book for.

I would recommend this novel for the older readers (14+) who enjoyed Black’s other novels when they were younger.

Rating: 6/10

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

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I know that there are a lot of young adult (YA) books around at the moment that delve into the themes of a hierarchical and unfair society, and rising up against oppression.

So, when one of our publishing reps at work gave me an uncorrected proof for Red Queen, I was sceptical. I fully expected it to be going to be just another YA book that conformed to the current dystopian fad – nothing special, and basically a carbon copy of something already out there.

But Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel (the first in a planned trilogy) has certainly raised the bar for dystopian genre YA novels.

Mare Barrow lives in a world where everyone is divided by the colour of his or her blood – you are either Silver or Red. The life of a Red is not one that is coveted, and it is one that is lived shortly, and in misery. Silvers, on the other hand, live in wealth and luxury, and have different abilities that give them power and position over the Reds – the ability to read minds, the ability to control a particular element, or even the ability to control nature. For the Silvers it is all about power and control.

Mare is a 17-year-old Red and spends her days thieving and pick pocketing to help her family to survive. Reds must have an apprenticeship by 18 years of age, otherwise they are conscripted to the kingdom’s long running war with the neighbouring Lakelanders. This weighs heavily on Mare’s mind, as she is almost 18-years-old with no apprenticeship or job prospects. The war has already taken her three brothers away from her family, and she hates the Silvers for it.

A twist of fate intervenes, and Mare finds herself working at the summer palace for the Silver royal family of her region, and she soon discovers that she possesses a mysterious power of her own. In an attempt to cover up this genetic anomaly, the king forces Mare to pretend to be a lost Silver noble, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she must decide whether to follow her head or her heart, knowing that one wrong move will lead to her death.

I got totally absorbed in this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about what had just happened, and what I thought was going to happen next. It hooked me right in! I will admit that there are elements of the book that reek with familiarity, but the more you read, the more you start thinking that it is actually quite different.

I am a sucker for a strong, downtrodden female protagonist, so I loved the character of Mare – strong, independent, but still flawed and unsure of herself. I also love that there is an element of romance in the book, but it takes a back seat to the overall storyline, which is refreshing in this genre. And the ending! Not at all what I was expecting, which is fantastic! The book has moments of suspense throughout, but the ending takes the cake – not at all what you think is going to happen.

I really did love this book, and considering Universal Pictures acquired the film rights before Aveyard even finished writing it, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks it great! A great read for teens aged 14+, and for adults who enjoy a good dystopian novel.

Rating: 9/10