hearn-emperor eightOrphaned and alone, Kazumaru must find a refuge when his uncle – greedy for his estate – tries to kill him in the midst of a hunt. Carrying with him the skull of the stag who died to save him, Kazumaru happens upon the hut of the powerful sorcerer, Shisoku. One who can bond the living with the dead, and man with beast.

With the help of the enigmatic Lady Tora of the Old People, Shisoku creates a ritual to bind Kazumaru with the dead stag. He is reborn as Shikanoko, the deer’s child. Though his old life is over, he has much to do.

The Eight Islands are in peril. The place of the rightful Emperor has been upset and forces are working to bring a different heir to power. The landed lords will have to choose their side, because a battle is coming.

Emperor of the Eight Islands is Lian Hearn’s latest novel exploring the multifaceted world of the Eight Islands. Told in multiple viewpoints, the novel chronicles the war that has divided the nation. Hearn’s inspiration for the novel comes from some of the historic warrior tales of Japan. She cites The Tale of the Heike and the Taiheiki as influences among others. These influences are clear in the structure of Emperor. It reads like an epic mythological tale set in feudal Japan.

There’s a lot going on in Emperor of the Eight Islands, but Hearn does a brilliant job of making the novel easy to follow. Quite a task considering that none of the names are familiar to most Westerners, and many of the names begin with the same letters as others.

The mythology and belief systems in Emperor are fresh and fascinating. With sorcerers, spirits – both evil and benign, ghosts and extraordinary beasts, the novel explores a world that is different to any fantasy I have read before. Hearn handles multiple storylines and perspectives masterfully.

While there are some fascinating characters with rich background stories and in depth development in Emperor, the female presence leaves much to be desired. Lady Tora is perhaps the most interesting of them, and her only objective is to reproduce.

Because Emperor reads like an ancient mythology the emotion is not high and not much emphasis is placed on description. The beauty of it lies in the fantastical elements; magic that is unleashed when the world falls out of balance, spirits that cannot rest until their duty is done and enchanted objects to aid the heroes on the quest.

Fans of Hearn’s Tales of the Otori will welcome this new series. It is a tightly woven, intricate tale that will stay with readers.




Emperor of the Eight Islands – Lian Hearn


Hachette (April 26, 2016)


ISBN: 9780733635137


Pieces of Sky_cvr.inddYA is so hot right now and let me just say that Aussie authors are certainly doing their bit to keep the genre at the top of its game.

When Pieces of Sky landed on my desk the arty brushstroke cover drew me in immediately. Also the endorsement from Vikki Wakefield, whose ‘All I Ever Wanted’ is one of the books that first got me hooked on YA fiction.

Pieces of Sky is written by debut author Trinity Doyle, a former music photographer, graphic designer, and girl band member. From the very first page this story has a distinctly Australian feel to it which I really loved. Too often, in my opinion, YA books lack a strong sense of setting.  For me this is a a critical element in making a story totally transportive. The small coastal town where this story is set is perfectly easy to conjure in your mind. The sunny, sleepy streets, surfboards strapped to car roof racks, shell wind chimes making music with the breeze and the zingy smell of salt water in the air.

Here lives Lucy. Lucy, who eight weeks ago had an ordered teenage life. She was the state backstroke champion, and swimming obsessed. She lived with her parents and her brother, Cam. She had friends, she had goals – she had a life. Then Cam died and her world imploded.

Lucy has stopped swimming. She’s struggling at school, side-stepping everyone at home and  questioning the circumstances around Cam’s death. Was it an accident or was it suicide? As she begins to hunts for answers Lucy discovers much more than she expects. About her brother, about her family, and about herself.

This book delves into some weighty themes (depression, grief, as well as teenage sex) but it does so without a heavy hand. There’s a lightness of touch that avoids any teacherly overtones and shows insight that upper adolescent readers will find accessible. As a central character Lucy is someone you want to invest in. You feel her struggles and understand every misstep.

Lucy’s first real love arrives in the form of new boy in town Evan, whose hard-won maturity is a refreshing take on a teen male character. More than just a ‘boy’ Evan is an important part of Lucy’s exploration of the world outside competitive swimming. So too is the renewal of her friendship with ex-best friend Steffi, the wild free spirit Lucy was pretty sure she no longer had anything in common with.

The depiction of Lucy’s broken family, meantime, is raw and real. The intensity of the sadness they face following Cam’s death breaks your heart. But Lucy’s story ultimately isn’t a bleak one. It’s uplifting and by the final page you know Lucy is going to be OK. You know she can hold her head above water again.

Pieces Of Sky by Trinity Doyle

Allen & Unwin June 2015

ISBN 9781760112486

macmillan-sword and verseRaisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Hardcover, 384 pages  Published January 19th 2016 by HarperTeen   0062324616 (ISBN13: 9780062324610)

This story ended up being something completely different from what I was thinking it would be. With the title of “Sword and Verse” I was going into the story expecting there to be a lot of fighting, war….well swords. But the usage of the word was unexpected. The book focuses more on knowledge and the privilege of reading and writing.

Raisa is chosen to be a tutor, one of the highest positions that  slave can obtain. This title gives her access to the castle and luxuries most slaves could never imagine. It also places her in the same room as the prince for several hours a day, practising their writing. It is not long before a romantic element arises and they begin a romantic relationship that could see her killed if ever they were found out.

When the prince is to become King and becomes engaged, the relationship fades. There have been uprisings and the people of the kingdom desire to learn the language of the Kings. Believing the way out of their slave-hood is knowledge, they approach Raisa to help their cause. Now Raisa has two reasons to fear for her life. She is stuck between the boy she loves and her people.

The story really focuses on two things: the love between Raisa and the Prince, and the power of language and writing. Raisa feels a powerful draw to writing because it links her back to her childhood and the time spent with her father.

There is a lot of drama in the story as her situation is very dangerous. The longer she stays in her position, the more she finds herself torn between her people and her love for the prince.

I went into the story expecting a very fast-paced, war-ridden kingdom. What I got was a romantic love story about a girl who falls hard for a charming man, and the desire of people to learn. What I loved about the book, and the reason I would recommend it to others, is the battle that Raisa fights within herself. She is a very smart and witty character who has to work her way through several very fraught situations and stay strong when others challenge her. I found her to be very truthful and devoted to what she believes in.

I found that after finishing the story, it still sticks with me; it is something I will read again and recommend to others who like a good dramatic romance.


bardugo-Six of Crows coverBelinda_kisses_tnBel:


I picked up both the audio and the paperback of this book, and they both have the same cover art, an illustration of a crow in flight against a snowy stormy looking sky.


This is the reason I ended up having to buy the paperback as well as having the audio book. There are sooooo many characters I just couldn’t keep them all straight in my mind.


Nina, her sense of humour is in the right place.

Least Favourite

Van Eck because the loser of the year award should go to him.


A drug has been invented to exacerbate the abilities the gifted people (Grisha) possess. It’s addictive and detrimental to the health of the Grisha who are forced to take it.


A gang of misfits has been hired by some rich guy to abduct the man who created the drug.


It isn’t the most unexpected ending, but it is pleasing none the less.


This is a substantial door-stop of a book. There’s a lot of action and quite a bit of humour thrown in. I was a little disappointed to realise I really couldn’t keep the number of characters straight in my head, so reading along became my preferred consumption method. I did enjoy the narration provided by the talented team of Jay Synder, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin. But as you can see, it’s a mammoth cast.

I do enjoy Leigh’s world building and political ambiance. I also love that her female characters aren’t all complete twits and can hold their own when it comes to intelligence and physical strength.

I’m really not sure if I’ll purchase the second book in the series, but maybe I’d borrow it from the library.


“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.” ~Inej talking to Kaz

Bardugo_Shadow and BoneJoelene_tnJoelene


A crow flying against a mist-grey backdrop with towers sketched into the gaps of its wing feathers. The title font is antiquated and lovely.


There are rival gangs, rival countries, law-makers, law-breakers, magic-wielders and the magicless. Six people form the major characters – a team put together by teenage criminal, Kaz Brekker, to break into a seemingly impenetrable military stronghold.


Way too many to choose from. Inej, maybe. She’s capable, knows her own worth and manages to keep some sort of moral code despite her occupation.

Least Favourite

None of them. They’re all pretty good characters in their own right, even the villains. Though I do hope we get to see Pekka Rollins and Tante Heleen fall.


Kaz Brekker and his gang have been systematically destroying any competition to their territory. Apparently, they have done a good enough job to catch the attention someone who has an offer that might just be worth the near certain death they will have to court to claim it.


When six people who don’t particularly like each other – and definitely don’t trust each other – team up to infiltrate a never-before infiltrated fortress; it’s going to take all they have to make it out alive and with their prize.


I don’t see how Bardugo is going to top the stakes in the next novel. This one pushes enough boundaries.


I’m glad I gave Bardugo another try. I liked Shadow and Bone, but Six of Crows has so much more political and emotional depth. It’s amazing how far Bardugo’s writing has come in such a short time. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.


She felt slightly guilty for eavesdropping on Kaz, but he was the one who had turned her into a spy. You couldn’t train a falcon, then ask it not to hunt.



Paperback, 491 pages

Published September 29th 2015 by Indigo (first published July 28th 2015)

ISBN 1780622279 (ISBN13: 9781780622279)



Key-bottle creekIn this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort’s father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put his all skills-and bravery-to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it’s up to Cort to win-or lose-the fight for their lives.

Cort’s parents are separated and his father continually goes to his mother to convince her to come back. On one of these occasions, a hurricane hits and leaves Cort to try to save their houseboat and keep the neighbours safe.

Cort is no stranger to the landscape around their home. His father leads tours on both land and water throughout the area and Cort accompanies him often. When the storm hits,  Cort finds himself swept away along with the neighbours’ girls. They find themselves in a secluded area with hogs, snakes, spiders, alligators and bears who are fleeing the floods. The three try to find safety, but they are outnumbered and  Cort must find help.

The story is very fast paced with constant action. A fun and on the edge-of-your-seat read for Middle Grade/Teen readers. The book also tackles the tough subject of divorce and dealing with emergencies. The writing is well done and really puts you in the southern U.S. Alabama state of mind. I recommend this one for those that enjoy reading stories with family issues or survival stories involving animals and nature. I enjoyed it and think you will to.

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