30 June 2013

Review: Betrothed by Wanda Wiltshire

*From Publisher for Review*

Betrothed is the debut novel from Australian author Wanda Wiltshire and is the first in an 'enchanting faery series'. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Wanda Wiltshire at a Pantera Press Book Launch event in April this year and was immediately impressed by her love of books and writing.

Betrothed is about 17 year old Amy Smith, a sufferer of chronic allergies who's been having weird dreams about the name 'Marla'.  Amy finds out that she's been connecting telepathically with the drop dead gorgeous Leif, a Prince from another land with so much to tell her.

Amy asks her friends to call her Marla and her best friend Jack supports her but her feelings for Leif make it hard for Jack and Marla, who seem to mean more to each other than just best friends.

My copy from Pantera Press
Betrothed is the perfect fantasy romance for young readers and is a very quick and enjoyable read.  There are questions about identity, and I thoroughly enjoyed the construction of the Fae world and its inhabitants; my favourite parts of the novel.  

I also found it refreshing that Marla told her sister and parents what was happening with Lief straight away.  It's so cliche when the main character can't share their news for some reason, or it has to remain a "secret".  I was so glad that everyone could see Lief and Wiltshire did not fall into the same narrative traps that plague many other authors in the YA genre. 

While romance isn't really my cup of tea, I have to remember the audience Betrothed is written for and I'm confident it'll be popular amongst YA readers. Well written and without a single error - extremely rare in this day and age - the cover of Betrothed is a delight and the storyline is well positioned for the next in the series.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
26 June 2013

Review: John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk book cover
John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk reads like a blend of historical fiction and fantasy, and had enormous potential but didn't quite hit the giddy heights I was hoping for.

Set in 1625, John Sandall and his mother flee their small town after the villagers claim his mother is a witch. Seeking shelter for the winter in an abandoned stone building in the woods, his mother shares with John the story of an ancient Feast; elegantly illustrated in a book his mother has always held dear and the only possession they have left.

John later finds himself in Buckland Manor and is given a job in the mammoth kitchens. It was here that John Saturnall's Feast really took off for me. I was enchanted by the goings on of the kitchen: the dishes being prepared, the utensils and methods used, the expanse of rooms and the seemingly organised chaos required to prepare the meals every day for Sir William Fremantle and his family.

His daughter refuses to eat when she is upset and soon begins one of her fasts and it falls to John to tempt her to break her fast with one of his dishes. This is an exciting plot line in of itself but soon the household is off to war and the novel lost me after that.  

The chapters in John Saturnall's Feast are occasionally broken up with the most gorgeous medieval style recipes and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these. With cooking instructions like: "A Pig is cooked when its Eyes pop out," from page 164 and from page 237:
"Next take cold Cream, warm Honey and a Ladder. Climb the Ladder. Pour the Honey and Cream at a Fall into a Pot of Gascon Wine and let it froth, the higher the better. Whisk the sweetened Cream until it stands in melting Peaks."  Page 237.

I wanted this book to be so much more, but sadly it just didn't get there for me.  I wanted more time spent in the kitchens and less time on the battlefield, however this is just one reader's opinion.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
24 June 2013

Review: The Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky & Amy Wallace

The Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky & Amy Wallace book cover
The Book of Lists - The Original Compendium of Curious Information by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace is a clever non-fiction collection of trivia and interesting stories and information broken down into the following chapters:

  • People
  • Movies
  • The Arts
  • Food and Health
  • Animails
  • Work and Money
  • Sex, Love and Marriage
  • Crime
  • War, Politics and World Affairs
  • Travel
  • Literature
  • Words
  • Sports
  • Death
  • Miscellaneous

The book gets its title because all information contained within each chapter is presented in list form.  For example, in Chapter 1, People, we have a list of 6 People Whose Names Were Changed By Accident; which happens to include: Buddy Holly and Oprah Winfrey.

Here are some of my favourite lists from the book:

  • 8 Memorable Lines Erroneously Attributed To Film Stars (Movies)
  • 10 Famous Insomniacs (Food & Health)
  • 10 Really Unusual Medical Conditions (Food & Health)
  • The Cat Came Back: 9 Cats Who Travelled Long Distances To Return Home (Animals)
  • 15 Famous People Who Worked In Bed (Work & Money)
  • 11 Most Unusual Objects Sold on eBay  (Work & Money)
  • Witticisms of 9 Condemned Criminals (Crime)
  • 29 Words Rarely Used In Their Positive Form (Words)
  • 10 Celebrated People Who Read Their Own Obituaries (Death)
  • 16 Famous Events That Happened In The Bathtub (Miscellaneous)

The Book of Lists is the perfect book to have on the coffee table so that others may enjoy the obscure trivia and hilarity within its pages.  I also found it a great accompaniment to a novel I was reading at the time; enabling me to interchange quite easily depending on my mood.

The Book of Lists contains a wide variety of interesting tidbits, and I just hope I can remember them all.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
19 June 2013

Google+ Hangout with author Honey Brown and The Reading Room

Last night I had the great pleasure of participating in a Google+ Hangout with Australian author Honey Brown.  Organised by The Reading Room, the video conference went for twenty-eight minutes and was recorded and uploaded to YouTube and The Reading Room today.

You can watch the video (above) and will notice I am the panel member on the far right.

It was my first Hangout courtesy of The Reading Room and it was such a joy to have the opportunity to speak live with Honey Brown and fellow blogger Shelleyrae of Book'd Out.

If you haven't read any books from this bestselling author, I can thoroughly recommend her novels to those who enjoy thrillers that keep you guessing.

Carpe Librum!

Biography (courtesy of The Reading Room)
Honey Brown lives in country Victoria with her husband and two children. She is the author of four books: Red Queen, The Good Daughter and After the Darkness. Red Queen was published to critical acclaim in 2009 and won an Aurealis Award, and The Good Daughter was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award in 2011. After the Darkness was selected for the Women's Weekly Great Read and for Get Reading 2012's 50 Books You Can't Put Down campaign.

Her new book is called Dark Horse.
10 June 2013

Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

Catherine de' Medici (pictured below left) was born in Italy in 1519 and at the age of just 14 was married off to the second son of Francis I of France, Henry, Duke of Orléans.

Catherine became Queen Consort in 1547, and C W Gortner writes about her life in this historical fiction novel: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.

Catherine de' Medici has a reputation in history of being ambitious in her later years, and guilty of planning the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, where somewhere between 5,000 - 30,000 Huguenots were killed in the streets of Paris.

Portrait of 
Catherine de' Medici

In The Confessions of Catherine de Medici the reader hears from Catherine in the first person and is privy to an entirely new perspective of history as we know it.  We see a young girl orphaned, a woman whose husband loves another, a mother who cares deeply about her children, a woman who strives for peace and who becomes Queen Mother to three French Kings.

Author C W Gortner succeeds in lifting the French Wars of Religion from the history books and bringing it to life through Catherine de' Medici's eyes in The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, with all of the blood, betrayal and lost opportunities that leave this reader wishing she could change the past.

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!
03 June 2013

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray cover
I haven't read any YA (Young Adult) fiction for a while, so I was looking forward to reading Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty; the first in her Gemma Doyle series of historical fiction novels.

We first meet Gemma in 1895 India, where she suddenly loses her mother in a traumatic market place death although the family decide to tell people she died from cholera. Gemma is subsequently shipped off to Spence boarding school for girls in England which turns out to be quite a culture shock for her.

Watching Gemma trying to fit in and steer clear of the 'mean girls' 1895 style was quite amusing, however the novel's plot soon deepens when Gemma begins to ask one of her teachers questions about the mysterious charm her mother gave her on the day she died, and a group called The Order.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was a truly YA read, and while I was looking for a dark, gothic boarding school read with a mysterious student cult at it's heart, this wasn't it. Instead this was a gentle coming-of-age tale told with well drawn characters and a touch of humour and longing thrown in. Perfect for the intended YA audience.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!