Book Club Notes: The Beast’s Garden

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I have a book club! Huzzah! A real life, in-the-flesh club that meets, drinks tea and discusses a set book of the month. And it is good, so, so good. Our first book was The Rosie Project which was a delight to read and discuss. Book two is The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth. Talk about a change of pace. Set in pre-war and wartime Germany, this retelling of Beauty and The Beast is beautiful and heartbreaking. It is unlike any other BatB retelling I’ve read before. I now know that is because the YA re-tellings I have read (think Withering Rose and A Court of Thorns and Roses) have been interpretations of the more modern version. There is however, an intriguing history behind the tale. A history with origins that could possibly date back at around 4000 years.

The Beast’s Garden is inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s version of the tale: The Singing, Springing Lark.

Kate herself is extraordinary. If you get a chance to hear her speak, do so. Her presentations are filled with inspiring and remarkable tales. She is completing a doctorate in fairy tale re-tellings (how cool is that!!!) and is a veteran author. Her website shares some of the vast amount of research she does for her works. In particular, her pages on the history & meaning of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ provide fascinating material for discussion.

Below are my questions for our book club. I’ve also included a detailed synopsis so members can have a quick refresher of the plot before we meet and discuss all things Singing, Springing Lark. If you haven’t read the book – STOP HERE. Seriously, don’t spoil this incredible novel by reading the synopsis first.

WARNING: spoilers ahead.

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Book club questions:

  1. After playing banned jazz and catching (as yet unknown ) Leo’s attention, Rupert declares, “I’m sick of being careful…” What does this use of foreshadowing tell us about the character of Rupert and the story to unfold?
  2. Even after Kristallnacht, Rupert believes commonsense and human decency will prevail. Do you think many people in Germany at this time held this belief?
  3. Chapter Four ends with the young musicians fleeing the SA. What do you think motivated Ava to tie Rupert’s scarf around the statue of the Führer? Do you think she understood the consequences of being caught?
  4. In Chapter Five, Ava recalls her father’s original view on Hitler’s popularity – “‘No one can take Herr Hitler seriously,’ he had said. ‘He’ll be laughed out of the Reichstag.’” (Forsyth, 2015, p.40) Is this misconception representative of other periods throughout history?
  5. Otto states that, “Books are dangerous! Nothing opens up the mind and the hearts like books do, and so they have the power to change the whole world.” (Forsyth, 2015, p.42) Do you agree with his statement?
  6. Ava convinces her father to warn people in Poland about a planned German attack. Was this brave or naive?
  7. In July 1939, Ava wishes she had never met Rupert. Does this signify the shift in her affections towards Leo and away from Rupert or does this symbolise something else?
  8. In Chapter 29 Monika and Ava have lunch at a fancy cafe for Monika’s birthday. Monika’s behaviour towards her sister is conflicted; she throws sharp barbs at her sister one moment and then a confession about Rupert the next. She even issues a stern warning his Rupert’s family. What drives Monika’s behaviour towards Ava and the Feidlers?
  9. Why might Monika have appeared so put-together and haughty, yet stressed and nervous at the same time?
  10. Could Ava have done more to save Libertas?
  11. How important to Rupert’s survival was the gift from Rudi?
  12. To what extend does Ava’s character change throughout the course of the novel?

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth Synopsis:

Part I November 1938 – March 1939

It is Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – and the apartment of Ava Falkenhorst’s close family friends, the Feidlers, is being ransacked. Ava wants to help but is stopped by a stranger. A Nazi. At this dark and malevolent time, Ava and the stranger share an intimate moment of honesty. The soldier issues a dire warning – “This is only the beginning,” before disappearing into the night.

The Feidlers move into the Falkenhorst’s house, a modest space for six people now cramped with ten. It is not long before tensions rise between Monika, who works for the SS, and the two Feidler children: Ava’s best friend and fellow musician, Rupert, and his older sister, Jutta. While singing with Rupert to her niece, Ava notices the Nazi soldier watching her through the window. A moment later he knocks on the front door and asks Ava to accompany him for a walk. She refuses.

Ava and Rupert seek release from the daily tension at the Hot Club – an underground jazz club – but flee when it is raided by police. Ava commits her first act of anti-Nazi vandalism by tying a scarf over the mouth of a statue of Hitler.

She is offered a paid singing job at which Himmler is in attendance. Ava purposely forgets to sing the altered lyrics to Silent Night as instructed. She captures the attention of Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the Gestapo. Also present at the event is the soldier, Leo Van Lowenstien. Ava discovers it was Leo who recommended her for the performance.
Leo and Ava meet in the teirgarten. It is here Leo confesses his duty is in conflict with his conscience. Ava’s hardened heart wavers. They share a kiss. The next day a rose is sent to Ava -a rarity in wintry Berlin. Ava rejects his further advances, convinced he is part of the Nazi machine.

Germany invades Prague. The Feidlers have missed their chance to flee Germany. Ava accepts a scholarship for which Rupert’s resentment grows. Leo visits and disproves of Rupert living with Ava, especially with his casual nature. Rupert insists Ava not see Leo. Ava realises her connection to the fairytale, ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ and that as in the tale, she too must see past the beast’s skin. She goes to Leo and their fledgling relationship grows. Leo confesses his desires for her but Ava cannot trust the Nazi in him. His jealousy emerges and he believes her resistance is because she is in a relationship with Rupert. That night, Rupert is arrested by the Gestapo for ‘subversive activities’.

The Feidlers move out. Ava tortures herself trying to determine who denounced Rupert. Was it Leo? She goes to Gestapo headquarters to find more information. She and the Feilders are told he has been sent to a labour camp. Ava sends a note to Leo telling him she never wants to see him again.

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Part II July – December 1939

Ava journeys to Bayreuth to perform at a music festival celebrating Wagner’s work. She is struggling with the knowledge of Rupert’s fate – a coded letter has revealed to his family he is alive but in a hellish prison camp. Ava wishes she had never met him.

Rupert is working in the Buchenwald’s camp. Starved and tormented, it is an effort to remain alive. He meets Rudi who gives him something that changes his life – a pen and scrap of paper.

Ava has her first glimpse of Hitler who is accompanied by two English women. She admires their frankness and wishes she herself could be unafraid. During her month at Bayreuth, Ava overhears Hitler say he wants a war and will take Poland in just weeks. She and her father, Otto, make a plan to write some warnings. Weeks later, Otto is arrested. Ava turns to Leo for help. Monika is determined to let her Oberführer at work know she was not involved in her father’s actions. Leo organises for Otto’s escape to Switzerland with Ava’s sister, Bertha (as his nurse) and Bertha’s daughter, Angelika. Ava and Leo share a passionate night. He convinces her to wed him. Ava says, “All right”. The next day they are wed, witnessed by Monika. Ava is introduced to Gilda, Leo’s prized possession, and they drive to his parent’s residence, the schloss, for their honeymoon. She still believes Leo is a dangerous Nazi and cannot trust him completely. At the schloss, Ava meets Leo’s mother, Isabelle, and his grandfather and learns about the passing of Leo’s brother.

In the camp, Rupert meets the Commandant’s young son and the brief encounter revives something lost – hope.

At the schloss, Ava meets Leo’s ex, Gertrud. Gertrud does not like Ava or that she has married Leo.

Germany invades Poland. Leo’s mother gives Ava the Lowenstein family pearls before Ava and Leo return to Berlin. While Leo is away at war, Ava visits with the Feidlers and agrees to spy on Leo. Later, Ava brings suitcases of donations to Jutta at the Jewish community office. Here she meets Libertas and the pair quickly become fast friends.
Leo returns from war and confesses the horrors he has seen as Warsaw was crushed by the German army. Despite this, Ava feels as though in many ways Leo is still a stranger to her.

In Buchenwald, Rupert continues to survive.

In the cold of winter, Ava spys on Leo as he meets with the admiral. Ava and Jutta continue their nighttime acts of vandalism.

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Part III June 1940 – December 1942

Devastated at the news her birthplace of Paris has fallen to the Nazis, Libertas commiserates with Ava and others unsympathetic to the Nazi cause. Ava feels she may have found  a form of resistance to join against the Third Reich.

At Buchenwald, Rudi is dead and a large chimney has been built.

After an air raid, Ava seizes the opportunity to have a secret key to Leo’s office made. She turns 21 and on that day discovers Leo did not denounce Rupert. Ava admits she loves him. Leo admits he loves her.

Rupert receives a trumpet from Jutta.

With her new camera, Ava takes photos of top secret documents found in Leo’s office. She spies on him during a daytime meeting with the admiral. At home, she catches him in a lie to her about his work.

Ava, Libertas and others continue their subversive activities with the help of a radio and a Russian spy.

Monika and Ava have lunch together for Monika’s birthday. Monika declares she did not denounce Rupert and issues a warning for the Feidlers: “get out now”.

Mass deportations of Jewish people from the city begins. Ava reads a report in Leo’s office of a massacre and questions his role in it.

On Christmas Eve, Leo and Ava travel to Admiral Canaris’s house. There, Ava eavesdrops as Leo meets privately with others about the war. Though confused about what she hears, Ava knows Heydrich’s surprise arrival could be disastrous for those in the meeting. Despite the danger she draws to herself, she distracts him. Back in Berlin with Leo away, Heydrich sends for Ava. He threatens her with her heritage and makes forceful advances. Unable to hide her injuries, she confess his actions to Leo. Ava now needs answers regarding her mother’s bloodlines and seeks out information first from the Feidlers and then from a gypsy caravan.

Jutta, Heinz and others plan an explosion at an exhibition to be attended by Hitler. It fails and Jutta seeks refuge in Ava’s basement. They do not tell Leo. Both Leo and Ava are pleased to hear of Heydrich’s assassination by a Czech resistance fighter but they know Hitler will want repercussions. Many of Jutta’s friends are executed. Mass executions and deportations occur in Czechoslovakia and Berlin in reprisal for Heydrich and for the Lustgarten bombing. Ava puts herself in more danger by giving her papers to Jutta.

Ava receives news her sister Bertha will be married in Switzerland and she and Leo plan Ava’s attendance. Ava is still keeping the secret of Jutta’s accommodation and though Leo knows she is lying to him, he does not push the issue. Ava assumes the role of a travelling spy in order to attend the wedding. Though the Gestapo offices are suspicious, she is able to leave and return safely. Leo tells Ava he knows about Jutta and that she must leave. They agree to finally trust each other and keep no more secrets.

Libertas and friends hiding the Russian spies are in trouble. Ava attempts to warn her but she is too late and can only watch as her friend is arrested.

The Buchenwald camp  is no longer full of Jewish people.

Liberatas and company are executed. Ava struggles with the loss of her friend and the world in which she must now live. She and Jutta become each other’s stalwart.

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Part IV January 1943 – July 1944

Ava and Leo discuss good and evil and what this means for Leo: he must kill Hitler. Onkel Franz is arrested despite his exemption due to his service in WWI. Tante Thea and other wives protest at the holding house and though repeatedly threatened with shooting, the ladies remain defiant and the Nazi troops eventually release Onkel Franz and the others in this centre. They had been scheduled for deportation to Auschwitz.

Rupert and Lucien and other prisoners are working on a delicate weapon in the camp factory. They decide to steal parts and make their own radio.

Many attempts by Leo and his co-conspirators to kill Hitler fail. Two men from the latest plot are arrested. In November, another plan fails. Berlin is bombed. The tiergarten is hit. The city is in chaos. Tante Thea and Onkel Franz are killed. Monika weds her SS officer fiance in a lavish ceremony on mid summer’s eve at Goebbel’s house. Himmler and family are there as is Gertrud and her fiance, Max Kranz, a high-ranking SS official. Kranz takes an interest in Ava. Monika’s new husband boasts of the extermination of
Thousand Jewish people a day. Ava is sickened. Kranz makes an aggressive pass at Ava. He informs her Gertrud had denounced Ava’s possible gypsy heritage to Heydrich.

Lucien and Rupert and others listen to their radio. Hope grows as does Lucien and Rupert’s love.

Another assassination of the Fuhrer fails. This time, the SS arrive for the Abwher. Leo escapes but is arrested at home. Ava flees.

For six months Ava has lived on the streets with Jutta. When a woman is killed in front of her, Ava seizes the opportunity to steel her clothes, identity and apartment. She seeks out Monika who informs Ava of Leo’s location: Flossenbürg. Determined to rescue Leo and Rupert, Ava and Jutta take Gilda on a slow and dangerous journey.

Buchenwald prisoners are all to be executed. Leo and Rupert attempt to save a group of children. Rupert and Lucien are captured; Lucien makes a sacrifice to stay with Rupert.

Ava leaves Jutta near Buchenwald to look for Rupert amongst the prisoners being relocated and she continues on to Flossenbürg. There she manoeuvres herself into performing for the officers. Gertrud and Max Krantz are in attendance. Ava uses Gertrud’s jealousy to formulate a plan of rescue.

Having found the traitor prisoners, Ava learns they are to be hanged in the morning. Kranz discovers Ava’s deception.

Jutta defeats two SS officers and takes their motorcycle.

Kranz leads Ava to his room, his depraved intentions clear. They struggle and Ava kills him with a champagne glass. Armed and dressed as a guard, Ava captures Gertrud and uses her for information. She rescues Leo and escapes in Kranz’s car.

In post-war Germany, they are each on thier own path to recovery. Leo, having survived eight months of torture, uses his work in the schloss garden to attempt to rebuild himself.
Ava is pregnant and they are overjoyed.

Jutta arrives with Rupert and Lucien and Leo’s mother, Isabelle, nurses them back to life. Later, Monika arrives, dumps a baby born ten months after her husband’s execution, and leaves.

Ava and Leo’s daughter, Libertas, is raised with Rainer as siblings.  Leo testifies at the Nuremberg Trials and at those in Dachau. Eventually his nightmares cease. Together, he and Ava dream of one day opening the schloss to people in need.

Review – Replica

finalreplica_coverrevealgifTitle                  Replica (Part One – Lyra)
Author             Lauren Oliver
Publisher        HarperCollins
Source              NetGalley
Genre               Science Fiction

Lyra is not human. She’s a Replica. Made at The Haven, Lyra’s existence is an endless cycle of tests, medical procedures and cold, harsh rooms. There are no surprises, only structure and routine.

Until, there is not. Lyra’s world changes irrevocably and she must adapt.

I enjoyed Lyra’s story though the ending left me looking for some part of the book I must have missed. It didn’t seem complete. A quick search online told me that was indeed the case. Replica is a two part book – a flip book. One is Lyra’s story and the other is Gemma’s. Gemma is human and I can see how her story would be as interesting as Lyra’s. I just haven’t read it yet.

So this review is based on only half the book. Do I want to read the other half? Yes, though to be honest I enjoyed the viewpoint of Lyra and I want more from her perspective. Oliver delivers Lyra’s narrative as one that is innocent and naive yet perceptive. Lyra’s interpretations of the world are both joyful and heartbreaking.

Replica is an intriguing reflection of how much humanity is learnt and how much is ingrained in our DNA.

Try Replica if you liked Delirium or State of Grace.

Review – A Promise of Fire

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Title                           A Promise of Fire
Author                       Amanda Bouchet
Publisher                  Hachette Australia
Source                     NetGalley
Genre                       Fantasy Romance

A promise of fire? There certainly was – but more on the smokey stuff soon.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet is a fantasy romance set in a time where warlords made empires and Greek gods intervened at will.

Cat ran away with the circus. For the pat eight years it’s been the perfect place to hide – until warlord Beta Sinta discovers her circus skills make her royally useful. She also has a few other tricks up her sleeve. Forced out of the circus, cat is faced with continuous peril as she is taken to the Sintain Palace. Along the way, Cat must decide if she should use her powers to save herself and expose herself to the deadliest enemy in the world.
Fun, fast and full of action, A Promise of Fire delivers an entertaining read that I devoured in two days. The lead players are well-crafted and Cat is a durable creature who reminds me a little of Celaena Sardothian. She has sass, she has spunk and is more ferocious than the warlord’s team combined.

With energy like that it’s not surprise there is fire in this story. And I’m talking smokey, hot, sexy fire. As in, burn the house down fiery stuff.

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The sparks in this book were not what I was expecting from a YA book and to be honest – this is NOT YA. I don’t care how old the MC is.

The tension between Cat and Beta Sinta builds well and Beta Sinta’s interests and emotions are conveyed well. She is determined not to give in to her physical attraction to him. Her constant thoughts about his rippling muscles became somewhat repetitive on their journey to the Palace.
What didn’t sit well with me was the abuse and the power struggle between Cat and Beta Sinta. Falling in love (lust?) with your kidnapper who keeps you tied up is a little too Stockholm Syndrome for my liking.
Aside from that, the unfolding events surrounding her time with Team Beta and the myriad of enemies now pursuing Cat make for an exciting, fast-paced read.

Try this if you liked Ice like Fire or Mortal Heart and enjoy your glasses steaming up while you read.

Review – Withering Rose

 

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Title                      Withering Rose
Author                  Kaitlyn Davis
Source                  NetGalley
Genre                   YA Fantasy/Retelling

Withering Rose is the second book in the Once Upon a Curse series by Kaitlyn Davis and is a re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast. While the framework of the timeless fairytale is evident, the setting of Withering Rose allows Davis to add a range of new complications to the storyline.

Book One in the series, Gathering Frost, was a loose interpretation of Snow White and book three continues with the fairytale theme. Strong heroines, swoon-worthy heroes with a heart of gold, and the all important curse ensures magic wielders have a struggle on their hands.

The premise for this book is interesting. A fantasy medieval-like world with magic at its heart has literally collided with modern-day Earth. The people from the two worlds struggle to reconcile their belief in magic. It is a clash of worlds in an almost post-apocalyptic landscape. Monarchs with magic verse armies with ammunition.

In Withering Rose, the curse on Omorose’s magic is a killer and if that’s not hard enough, she and her father are hiding in plain sight in a military command centre. Suppressing her magic is almost as consuming as dealing with the snarky kids in her class. An opportunity for escape presents itself and Omorose finds herself in the Kingdom of the Beast.

Knowledge of the fairytale gives the reader a sense of expectation about the relationship between Omorose and the Beast. While there are the anticipated elements to the story, there are still many unknowns that kept me hooked until the end.

In the children’s story, a witch casts a spell and the beast has until the last petal falls from an enchanted rose to break the curse. This curse, and the process of the rose withering away, is re-imagined in a clever way. This story also avoids the Stockholm Syndrome that so many versions of Beauty and the Beast rely on.

It does, to my delight, stay faithful to the inclusion of the library.

This was a good read. Both book one and two were an enjoyable adventure through a chaotic new world. Book three, Chasing Midnight, is scheduled for release in 2017 and until then, I’m going to work my way through Kaitlyn Davis’ back catalogue.

I Heart Aussie YA

Aussie YA Books

Aussie YA is fantastic.

Over the past few years I’ve been working on spreading the word to some of my students about how great Aussie YA is. Some have embraced the titles suggested and have been pleasantly surprised. Others shake their heads and back away slowly.
This makes me ask, why?

These are students who love reading. They are excited to get together each week and share their latest YA love. Yet Aussie YA has them turning their noses up. On further investigation, most students haven’t read much Aussie YA, and what they have (usually only the Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden, they loved. So why the fear? Why are young Australians so hesitant to pick up a home grown book?

This snubbing of Australian work is not new. When I was younger I worked in a cinema. Patrons would come and ask what a film was about and I would say, “It’s a new Australian film…” “Oh, never mind then,” would be the response before I could even say what it was about. We don’t even want to give it a go and we are seriously missing out!

We have excellent YA writers here in Australia and they deserve more attention. Their books deserve to be read just as much as their international counterparts.

This brings me to my mission. I am going to feature Australian YA books until I can convince teens of Australia to give them a go. Heck, readers don’t have to be teens – or even Australian for that matter.

Here are some of the books I will be featuring:

The Rephaim Series by Paula Western

Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Measuring Up by G J Stroud

Akarnae by Lynette Noni

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

The Guardians Series by MJ Stevens

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkenson

Every Breath by Ellie Marney

The Book of Days by K.A. Barker

Burn Bright (Night Creatures) by Marianne de Pierres

The Starbound Series by Amie Kaufman

 

I’m also open to suggestions. Know any Aussie YA books I need to read?

Sarah, Sara and Super Cool MCs

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“The Assassin” Fan art by walkingnorth

When I finished reading Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch I just wanted to tell everyone about it. The strangers at the supermarket were not impressed, so it’s up to you, dear blog reader, to experience my excitement at one of my favourite reads of 2014.

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Snow Like Ashes is set in a world where magic is controlled by each kingdom’s reigning monarch. This power was unbalanced when Spring’s king murdered Winter’s queen, destroyed their magical conduit and enslaved all Winterians.

I haven’t been this excited about a series since Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass and, not surprisingly, similarities exist between Meria and Celaena Sardothian. Both are blonde, beautiful and deadly. Both are trained fighters who do not shy from battle. Both have a wicked sense of humour. Both have had the people of their land murdered and enslaved by a cruel and corrupted king.

Despite the similarities, the storyline and the characters of Meria and Celaena, head in different directions. Celaena is a trained assassin and employed by the king. Meira, one of two dozen refugees who managed to flee the destruction of the kingdom of Winter, is an orphan who has spent sixteen years on the move, learning about her lost homeland through shared memories and campfire stories.

Celaena wants revenge. Meira wants to matter.

It’s hard to pin point exactly why these books grab me more than others. To weeks earlier I read The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Her Legend books are great and I eagerly anticipated her next series. Unfortunately The Young Elites left me disappointed. My problem wasn’t with the writing or even the storyline – both were good. It was the main character I couldn’t connect with. I realise she was struggling with the darkness within her but there was little in her personality to redeem her. I didn’t want Enzo to develop feelings for her because, well, she was a bit of a jerk. To be truthful, I could understand where the monarchy was coming from wanting to remove people with dangerous abilities. This made me cross; I didn’t want to side with the “bad guys”. I certainly did not approve of their methods, but Adelina had a dangerous ability, was not a very nice person, and was known to put people’s lives in danger.

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Celaena Sardothian struggled with her own darkness in Maas’ Heir of Fire. Hers was a journey so emotionally exhausting and all-absorbing that my own mood became an extension of hers. Much to my family’s displeasure. Sorry family. Even so, for every one of her character flaws, she had a redeeming feature. I wanted her to succeed.

Meria too, she’s young and desperate for acknowledgement that she is capable and that she can help Winter but her desperation is tempered by her determination and self assurance that she knows what she wants.

I was elated to learn that Throne of Glass is a series of six books. I’m just as excited to follow Meria’s journey. Thank you Sarah J. Maas and Sara Raasch, for writing such kick-arse characters.

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As for the Young Elites – maybe I’m just not ready for a YA anti-heroine.

January Sequel Joy

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This morning I woke up to an email from a book store informing me that my pre-ordered copy of Fight For Me by K.A. Last was available for download. Woohoo! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the second book in the Tate Chronicles so much so that I may have tried pre-ordering it more than once. Turns out that does not help the release date arrive any faster.
So now that it’s mine, should I halt the book I’m halfway through and pick up again with the Tate Chronicles? I think… yes.

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Another sequel on my radar is that of Isla’s Oath by Cassandra Page. Book two in the Isla’s Inheritance series is released January 20.

If you want to read some Aussie paranormal YA lit that holds its own against the big international titles then check out Fall for Me and Isla’s Inheritance. You won’t regret it!

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So after all the release excitement of the next three days, we then have The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon releasing on January 27th. The Mime Order is the sequel to Shannon’s The Bone Season. The Bone Season is unique and strange and different and I loved it. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey.

After all this sequel anticipation I’m going to need a holiday to recover. Oh wait, I’ve just had six weeks off and am heading back to work on Monday. *sigh* Oh well, I guess I can squeeze some work in around reading.

Review and Author Interview – Isla’s Inheritance

I’ve finally read Isla’s Inheritance and not only do I have my review to share, I also have an interview with the author and a giveaway. 

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Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

Genre: Young adult urban fantasy

Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Release date: 9 October 2014

Summary from Goodreads:

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

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My thoughts:

Isla’s Inheritance is an urban fantasy coming of age story about Isla, a girl who’s family heritage turns out to be more complicated than most.

I’ve been hanging out to read this one and was interested to see how the Aussie capital would fair as backdrop for a fantasy story. Page easily made Canberra as plausible a place as anywhere for a fae story. The characters connected and the dynamics of the fae world were intriguing. I have picked a ‘team’ and really hope that ‘my’ side wins later in the series. I’m a Dominic fan (rather than Jack) and hope to see his character develop more in book two.

This was an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to book two.

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Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’

Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?

It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.

Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉

Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!

I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?

Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!

The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.

Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?

I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.

Where in Australia are the books set?

They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.

It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

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Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Although there are many fictional places I’d like to visit (Sunnydale, Middle Earth, Alagaesia to name a few), I’ve chosen to list real places that books have made me want to visit (or revisit).

1. Scotland – Outlander Series

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2. Tasmania – The Potato Factory

Courtenay’s vivid description of the Tasmanian landscape left me with high expectations. When I finally travelled to Tassie, the scenery was just as spectacular as I’d imagined.

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3. New Zealand – The Lord of the Rings

Okay, so this is blurring the book/film boundaries but how great would it be to do a LOTR tour of New Zealand?

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4. Lyme Regis in Dorset, England – Remarkable Creatures

I would love to wander along the shore line and pretend that I was Mary Anning.

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5. Prague – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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6. New Orleans – Interview With the Vampire

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7. Oxford, England – Discovery of Witches

So much history to see! And how wonderful would it be to visit the Bodleian Library?

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8. Venice – Othello

When travelling in Venice, it was easy for me to understand why Shakespeare set his play in this beautiful city.

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9. Paris – Anna and the French Kiss

Though I travelled to Paris 15 years ago, reading this made me want to return and to live in the city of love.

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10. Eden Valley, Australia – The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

I’ve heard they have an amazing bakery.

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So that’s my list. What about you? Do you have any places you would like to visit after reading about them?

Coming Soon: Isla’s Inheritance

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Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

I’m so excited for this release! I really enjoy Cassandra Page’s blog and can’t wait to read her debut novel.

Genre: Young adult urban fantasy

Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Release date: 9 October 2014

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Summary from Goodreads:

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

Goodreads page

Giveaway!

Enter here to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice)

Author bio

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?CassPage

Author links

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

So that’s what I’m waiting on right now. What debut novels are you looking forward to?