26 February 2015

Review: The Fairytale Keeper (Book One in the Fairytale Keeper Series) by Andrea Cefalo

* Copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours *

It's a pleasure to join Author Andrea Cefalo as she tours with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Fairytale Keeper, from 16 February - 13 March. The Fairytale Keeper is a young adult historical fairytale re-telling. Here's the blurb from the book.

The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo book coverAdelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren. Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. 

Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life. Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

My Review
I love fairytale re-tellings, and when I saw the gorgeous cover for The Fairytale Keeper and heard it was an historical fairytale re-telling I couldn't wait to get reading.

I instantly fell in love with Adelaide and her father (a shoe-maker) and each time Adelaide helped her father with the shoe-making process I was transfixed. The tragedy of her mother's passing and cruel treatment by the priest at her funeral service really sets the scene for what is to follow and the period details throughout really added to my enjoyment. The references to fairytales were scattered throughout this YA novel, but I was surprised to find that my interest in the fairytale aspect completely fell away and I was just interested in Adelaide's story. The Fairytale Keeper was a quick and enjoyable read and really felt like a straight up YA historical fiction novel (which of course it is) but without the strong fairytale focus that you find in novels like Bitter Greens.

The Fairytale Keeper is the first in a series and thankfully didn't end on a cliffhanger (I hate that) but as soon as it finished I wondered what will happen to Adelaide in the next phase of her life. To find out though, I'll have to read The Countess' Captive, which I might just do! I just hope there's still some shoemaking in the next novel.

My rating = ****

About the author
Andrea Cefalo_Author
Author Andrea Cefalo
Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.

This giveaway to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $25 Amazon Gift Card has now closed.
19 February 2015

Review: The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley for review *

The Girl in the Photograph is an atmospheric historical fiction novel by Kate Riordan that captured my interest from the very beginning.

Set in Fiercombe manor, this is the story of two women, Elizabeth in the 1890s and Alice in the 1930s and we hear from both women in the first person.

When Alice moves to Fiercombe Manor, she becomes interested and perhaps even obsessed with the life of Elizabeth, previous lady of the house. Alice starts to unravel Elizabeth's story, and discovers it's not too different from her own.

Both women feel oppressed by the social standards and expectations of the time in which they live; Alice by her mother and Elizabeth by her husband, giving the novel an almost gothic atmosphere.

Early comparisons to Kate Morton seem to follow every review of The Girl in the Photograph, and I have to agree. I'm a devoted fan of Australian author Kate Morton, and although Kate Riordan is a UK writer, The Girl in the Photograph, definitely feels as though it could have been written by Morton. The way in which Riordan splits her story into two time periods, with the character in the present (in this case the 1930s) pulling at threads of the past and feeling that the ghost of time and the essence of Elizabeth is never too far away is strongly reminiscent of Kate Morton's style.

Far from being critical of the similarities in style, I feel I've discovered a new favourite author to add to my list and I eagerly anticipate the next offering from Kate Riordan.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. If you're into combining music with your reading, then I suggest listening to Johnny Belinda or Hanging On by Active Child when reading this novel. They seem to go hand in hand.
15 February 2015

Review: The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Series, Book 1 and Book 2 by V.N. Kelly-Clark and D.J. Kelly-Clark

* Copies from authors for review *

Dandelion (The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Book 1) 

Dandelion is a delightful children's book written by V.N Kelly-Clark and illustrated by D.J. Kelly-Clark.

This Australian husband and wife team introduce young readers to Dandelion, a faery who doesn't like to brush her hair. Dandelion's hair is thick and white-blond and so tangled and knotted that she gets it caught all the time.

I'm sure all kids and parents can relate to Dandelion's fear of having her hair brushed or cut and her subsequent adventures.

Dandelion is a quick and easy read for bedtime, and my only regret is that I desperately wanted to see one last illustration of Dandelion at the end of the book.

Sugar Rush (The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash Book 2)

Sugar Rush is the second book in The Chronicles of Dandelion and Ash series of e-books from husband and wife team V.N & D.J. Kelly-Clark. 

In this instalment, Ash (Dandelion's brother) finds himself in trouble after eating sweet treats that give him a sugar rush. This is no ordinary sugar rush though as sugar can make a faery's wings fall right off and Dandelion has forgotten to warn her brother.

Sugar Rush is longer and contains more illustrations than Dandelion, and the symptoms Ash experiences during the sugar rush are funny and clever at the same time.

Recommended reading age for both picture books is 3-7 years.

My ratings as follows:

Dandelion = ****

Sugar Rush = ***

Carpe Librum!
08 February 2015

Review: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) by Dan Brown

I loved reading Dan Brown's latest action thriller Inferno and remain a loyal fan and firm advocate of the Robert Langdon series, of which Inferno is the fourth. 

This time Langdon is back in Europe and the bad guy is a transhumanist by the name of Zobrist. A genetic scientist, Zobrist believes that the overpopulation of the earth is ruining the planet and humans will be doomed unless the population is brought under control. How does he intend to do that? Plague of course! 

Zobrist (who is obsessed with Dante Alighieri's epic poem The Inferno), intends to release a plague and kill half of the worlds inhabitants in order to save the planet. Zobrist believes that after the plague ravaged Europe centuries ago, it gave rise to sweeping change, plenty of food and opportunities for survivors and the birth of the Renaissance. As an extension, Zobrist sees himself as the earth's saviour and his plague as a great sacrifice that will cement his name in history.

In order to stop this bioterrorism threat, Langdon needs to cut through Zobrist's references to Dante and The Inferno and find out where the plague will be released. In doing so, Langdon finds himself running through Florence and travelling through Venice to track down his quarry.

Dan Brown uses a familiar and well-worn plot structure that has been successful in the past and works again here. Having said that, I was pleased to find a little less symbology and code breaking and and an increased focus on literature, architecture and art (of which I adored). I had to stop reading countless times to look up various artworks, paintings, sculptures and buildings and let my mind explore Italian history just a little further. 

I also enjoyed learning about transhumanism, discovered a renewed interest to visit Venice and finally decided to try and read Dante's epic poem for myself; although I don't know how I will manage (stay tuned).

All in all, Dan Brown has delivered another ripping thriller, and if you can ignore the fact that Langdon never sleeps or showers, and seems to have perfect recall, you will enjoy this fourth instalment just fine. I'm giving it five stars just for the art, literature, science and architecture that constitute so much of Inferno; all of it real and accurate.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Word is that Tom Hanks is going to star in the film adaptation of Inferno in a movie to be released next year. Filming begins in April 2015 and I'll definitely be going to see it when it's released. Will you?

02 February 2015

Review: 1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson & James Harkin

1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson & James Harkin book cover
1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop is jam packed with funny, interesting and quirky facts that you'll want to read aloud to anyone within listening distance. 

There's a combination of facts that flow logically on from each other without being broken down into specific chapters (e.g. animals, human body, history etc) that made for a seamless, uninterrupted read.

I borrowed this book from the library and everyone who saw it in my living room couldn't resist picking it up and then reading out a snippet or two. Perfect!

Here are three of my favourite facts from the book:

It's impossible to hum while holding your nose. Page 76

Burning Mountain, Australia, is a natural coal fire that has been alight for 6,000 years. Page 146

A group of kittens is called a 'kindle.' Page 148

Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper is so high, and its lifts are so fast, that you can watch the sun set at ground level, travel to the roof and watch it set again. Page 225

1,339 QI (Quite Interesting) Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop is a brilliant coffee table book presented in a small hardback edition perfect for throwing in your bag and taking with you to pass the time.

Highly recommended for a variety of readers, young and old.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!