Friday, May 31, 2013

Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham

Gasp! Don't be too shocked, but this is a review, and not one that I had committed to (although I do have another one of those coming up early next week so there will be another review here soon).

The main reason I am making an effort for this book is that I have reviewed all of the other Fables stories that I have read so I don't want to break my record and because I would never be able to rely on my memory alone to remember all the individual stories that are included in this collection.

This is volume 9 of the Fables series, and so I will need to start with the now customary warning.....


The first story in this collection picks up the action in the Homelands. After the bitter defeat that the Adversary's troops experienced in previous collection, the Homelands leaders come together more determined than ever to find a way to defeat the fables who live in Fabletown and they have no concern whatsoever about any collateral damage to the mundys who also live on Earth. First though the reader is introduced to each of them. Some we have met before like the head of the knight Bright Day but others are new - Lumi the Snow Queen for example. One of the more important seems to be Hansel (yes, the one usually associated with Gretel) who has previously been banished from Fabletown but is to be now sent back as the Adversary's political representative. In due course, we find out why he was banished in the first place - an unpleasant tale in itself.

Interspersed with these introductions is a little story about Red Riding Hood going to get a haircut. By the time we got to the end of the story I got why it was there, and eventually there were more clues as to why it was important, or more precisely why one particular character's reaction to said haircut was important, at first it did feel a little incongruous being placed where it was.

Heading back to the Homelands, and it is time for a brainstorming session about the fate of Fabletown (and Earth) with one of the solutions being suggested being four plagues - Pestilence, Fire, Winter and Famine. Whilst the more dastardly of the assembled group are all for this, there are a couple of voices of reason, not the least of which is Pinocchio. He is under a compulsion spell that means that he must remain loyal to his father, but that doesn't stop him from suggesting that the humans will not be quite as easy to beat as all of the others seemed to think.

Whilst this thread about the future dominates the first half of the book and so is relatively easy to talk about, it is the other parts of the collection that make it difficult to review. While I have talked on numerous occasions about needing to read in order, there are so many subplots that we just get the briefest of glimpses of in this collection but that hark back to previous books. For example, we have just a couple of pages about Jack getting into mischief again, and just a couple of pages about a human reporter who is sniffing around Fabletown. In and of themselves they don't necessarily move the story forward in great leaps and bounds, but they do tie previous storylines to this collection and I expect, in due course will be easily identifiable as the foundation that future story developments were built upon.

One of the things I liked about this collection is that there were some short stories where we got to meet some of the other characters who live in Fabletown. The first of these was about Rapunzel, who must always keep on the move, not being able to stay in one place for more than a couple of hours because her hair grows so quickly that mundys would notice if she didn't keep moving. In other short stories, there was also lots of kissing various animals in the hope of meeting a handsome prince or princess (not always successfully), the three blind mice searching for paradise, recruits to the mouse police on parade and so much more.

I loved spending more time with Bigby and Snow and their charming brood of kids (as always!), even when Bigby was being all dark and broody because he had to go and visit his father. I particularly enjoyed the Christmas story which explained to the cubs how Santa Claus manages to get all round the world in one night. It would have been such a joy to receive the Christmas cartoon when it was published as a single magazine.

I wasn't as keen on some of the more intense stories. I know that we are building up to the big confrontation between the Adversary and the fables who live in Fabletown but there were a few times where that build up just felt relentless. Whilst I generally enjoy the developing storyline around the big upcoming confrontation, it really is the more whimsical elements that I enjoy the most.

What the creators of this series do manage most of the time is to get a mix between the more light hearted storytelling and the dramatic big storylines. The last few pages of this collection are a perfect example of this. The team chose a few of the thousands of questions that they have been asked over the years that they have been doing the Fables cartoons and they did a few short stories to illustrate the answers - so much fun! Questions like what is Boy Blue's favourite song, who was Prince Charming's first love, how does Bufkin keep getting hold of the alcohol and who caught the bouquet at Snow White's wedding! Such fun!

Rating 4/5

The Best-Laid Plans

The free Fables living in the mundane world have struck a decisive blow against the Adversary, destroying one of his most valuable assests at the very heart of his empire - and setting the stage for an all-out war between the worlds in the process. Now, while the rule of the Homelands licks his wounds and gathers his forces, the denizens of Fabletown have a rare chance to savor the brief peace their victory has brought them. Everyone, however, knows that this is just the calm before the storm - and that even the winds themselves will have to choose sides before it's over.
Other contributors to this edition include Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Michael Allred and Andrew Pepoy

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Library Loot: May 29 to June 5

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
It's my turn to host Mr Linky this week, so please add your link below.

In the meantime, here is my haul this week. I was surprised that so many new (as in never been read by anyone) came in all at once this week. Now I just need to actually get around to reading these before it is time to take them back.

Written in Red: a novel of the others by Anne Bishop - Many years ago now, some people who sadly no longer blog convinced me to try Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series. I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed them as I wouldn't have necessarily picked them as being my kind of read. Over the last couple of years though I have fallen off the Anne Bishop bandwagon, to the point that I didn't actually know that she had a new series coming out. This is the first book in that series.

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay - As soon as I started hearing about this book I knew I wanted to read it. I've seen mixed reviews but hopefully I will like it.

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts - The latest standalone novel by Nora Roberts. I haven't loved her latest trilogies as much as usual but hopefully I will like this standalone story.

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness - New Patrick Ness.  I don't think I need to say much more than this.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - This is new historical fiction from an Australian author writing about Icelandic history - not something that you usually read!

The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey - I actually already had the book of this out from the library. I had a different audiobook on request but it had been stuck in transit for 10 days or so. When I was at the library the other night trying to find out where that book was I saw this on the shelf and thought that I would grab it. The book is only short so that audio is only just over an hour in length, so it tided me over until the other audio came in!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

It is probably not a huge surprise to those of you who have followed my blog for some time to learn that as soon as I heard about this book I wanted to read it! A well-written book set against the backdrop of World War II. Yes, please! I had intended to read the author's debut novel after hearing many good things about it but I haven't yet done so.

I was, however, very pleasantly surprised to find that this book was so much more than just another war story. Jennifer Cody Epstein has written a lovely exploration of the lives of a group of characters that spans the years leading up to World War II, a couple of key events that don't necessarily get a lot of coverage now, and then touching base again after the war is over.

The story opens in 1935 with a young couple who are just beginning a relationship. For Cameron Richards, Lacey Robertson is the girl who he is unusually comfortable with and, even at this early stage he is beginning to think that she may be the one girl for him.  One of the other most significant loves of Cameron's life is his dream of flying, a dream that has helped cocoon him from a father who he has always disappointed.

The story then moves to Japan, to the home of an American architect named Anton Reynolds who has lived in Japan for many years along with his wife and son, Billy. At a dinner party, the family is entertaining a master builder named Kenji Kobayashi, his glamourous English educated wife Hana and their precocious daughter Yoshi. Billy has a new found passion for photography that his disapproving father is tolerating but not encouraging and he finds a willing model in Hana. His Japanese childhood and his photography will lead Billy back to Japan after the war is over, but as a man, Billy has a secret that threatens to destroy his life.

Each of these characters play a role in the story but the main focus is really on Yoshi, who either through a physical object, or emotionally or physically is connected to each of the other characters. If Yoshi is the main character, then the main event is the fire bombing of Tokyo during 1945 which destroyed vast swathes of the city, killing nearly 100,000 people in the process. Whilst we remember the dropping of the atomic bombs, and rightfully so, these fire bombing attacks are not something that I remember hearing very much about. I must give kudos to the author because these scenes are so well written. The fear that the characters feel, the despair as they watch people die painful deaths around them, the terror of not knowing if your loved ones are alive or not - I was so moved as I read these scenes.

The author very cleverly connects the various vignettes, ensuring that the reader is invested in the lives of most of the characters, no matter what their role in the story is. As the threads that tie each of the characters together are revealed, the reader is exposed to the cruelties of war - the atrocities, the strain on those who live daily with the threat of losing all they own including their life, the strain on those left behind wondering what has happened to their loved ones as well as to the secrets that we keep even from those we love.  There was only one time where I felt like I had missed something as we jumped forward in time, when I wasn't quite sure of how Yoshi got from where we had last seen her to where she was.

As an exploration of a single event, of interconnected lives and of the price of war, this is an excellent read which I highly recommend. Now I am off to request The Painter of Shanghai, the author's debut novel. If it is anything like this, then I am expecting to really enjoy that one too.

Rating 4.5/5

Tour Details

Link to Tour Schedule
Jennifer Cody Esptein's website.
Jennifer Cody Epstein on Facebook
Jennifer Cody Epstein on Twitter.


A lush, exquisitely-rendered meditation on war,The God of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

In 1935, Yoshi Kobayashi is the six-year-old daughter of a sophisticated, iconoclastic mother and an unread, nationalistic father. Years later, as a teen in Manchuria, she witnesses, first-hand, the harsh realities Japan’s expansionist dreams—even as she discovers the first blush of love. During the worst days of the war in Tokyo, Yoshi balances school work with ration lines—even while caring for her mother whose rebellious spirit has been brutally broken by the men who wage war. Then, one March night, Yoshi’s world is finally consumed by flame when hundreds of American B-29’s scorch the night sky, showering napalm down upon her city. Left alone among the ruins, Yoshi’s fate will now depend on her will to live and the unlikely intersections with three men whom she’d have once considered “enemies”: a downed American bomber pilot, a Hungarian-born architect, and an Occupying Forces intelligence officer with his own damning secret.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is about vastly different nations who are tied inextricably to one another, first in enmity and then alliance. It’s a story of physical lust and military power; of wartime atrocity and small acts of human kindness. It is a sweeping tale about the redemptive power of forgiveness even in the face of devastating acts of violence.
Apologies to TLC Booktours for being a couple of days late with this review. My blogging malaise is hanging on strong at the moment.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Library Loot: May 22 to 28

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
Thank goodness for Library Loot posts, otherwise there would be no posts at all on this blog at the moment! Despite the fact that I am not blogging much, I am still reading and I am definitely still borrowing books from the library.

Here's what I got last week:

Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long - The third book in the Pennyroyal Green series

The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan - Now that I have read all Susan Duncan's non fiction books and feel as though I have gotten to know more about life on Pittwater Bay it might be time to try this book, her first novel, again.

Kitty's War by Janet Butler - A few weeks ago we were talking about war books and this was mentioned as a good non fiction account of the life of a nurse during World War I.

French Food Safari by Maeve O'Meara - Louse from A Strong Belief in Wicker recently mentioned the DVD of this Australian TV series. The library doesn't have the DVD but it does have the book.

Downton Abbey Season 2 - I was really surprised when this came in again only a day or so after I returned it unwatched last week! I know what I will be doing this weekend!

Babel by Mumford and Sons - Loved Mumford and Sons debut album so I am really looking forward to giving this one a listen too!

Claire has Mr Linky this week so head over to her blog to share your Library Loot!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Library Loot: May 15 to 21

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
This week I have only got one book in my loot. The rest are TV series and a music CD. The only problem is that the TV series are popular and so you only get them for a week. I managed to watch all of one, but not the other. I will have to rerequest that one!

Here's what I got:

Game of Thrones (season 1) - When season 1 of Game of Thrones was first shown on pay TV here, I was recording each episode with the intention of watching them all. I kind of lost steam after about 5 episodes and didn't watch anymore after that. Because I could only borrow this for a week, I ended up watching this over the weekend.

Downton Abbey (season 2) - After being totally addicted to season 1 of Downton, I didn't even watch the first episode of season 2. I will need to rerequest this one as I wasn't expecting both this and Game of Thrones to come in at the same time and I didn't have time to watch both of them last weekend.

Must Like Kids by Jackie Braun - I think I saw a positive review for this at Dear Author which prompted me to put the request in for this book.

The Best of Ricky Martin - Ricky Martin is one of the judges on The Voice here in Australia. He is just so charming and good looking and charming. Seeing him on The Voice reminded me that I haven't actually listened to any of his music for a long time!

What loot did you get this week? Share your link in Mr Linky below:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seduction by M J Rose

I am going to start with a huge disclaimer about my review of this book. I didn't enjoy this as much as I expected, mainly because it wasn't the book I expected to read.

To be honest, that is my own fault. I have read a number of M J Rose's books before and liked them well enough, but after reading the third book in her Reincarnationist series I decided that was enough for me. It's not that I didn't enjoy the books I read but thrillers aren't really my thing and I am not invested in the paranormal aspects to a great degree, and so I felt it was time to let this series go.

When the next book, The Book of Lost Fragrances, came out last year I stayed strong and didn't read it, just like I apparently didn't read the blurb closely enough when I was offered this book for review. I have a very clear memory of thinking that it was interesting that M J Rose was choosing to go in a new direction. I guess I was stuck on the references to Victor Hugo on the island of Jersey (I had no clue that he had lived there) and didn't actually read the rest of the blurb.

Here's the thing though... the blurb and the cover don't really help considering that there is nothing in either that tells you that this is part of the Reincarnationist series. And that is a real bug to me because as a reader I prefer to read a series in order. I prefer not to find out that a book is part of a series when I read the second chapter and recognise a character name from the previous books. And yes, I am sure that there are plenty of people who would tell me that this is a standalone book, and it was to a degree, but there were still a lot of references to the events of the previous book.

Anyway...enough of my ranty mcranty rant. How about the book itself?

There are three strands in the story that link together over time to form the whole story. The first and most interesting to me related to the aforementioned Victor Hugo who was living in exile on the island of Jersey along with his wife and some of his children, and his mistress. Very cosy! It was while living there that Hugo becomes interested in trying to communicate with his daughter Didine who had died in a boating accident ten years before. He becomes more and more involved with seances and, in doing so, opens himself up to other paranormal experiences. Along the way, Hugo records all of his experiences in some journals, including his relationship with a young woman named Fantine.

In the present day, Jac L'Etoile is asked to head to Jersey by an old friend. Theo and Jac shared an important friendship in their teens but they were separated and hadn't seen each other for many years. Jac is now a mythologist and she is intrigued by the Celtic links that are present in the ruins and the history of the island. When she gets to Jersey and Theo shares the Victor Hugo connection, she is even more intrigued and agrees to help Theo find the lost journals that could reveal more about the famous author's time on the island and also about the history of Theo's family.

The final strand in the story concerns a Druid priest who is called upon to make an unfathomable sacrifice. The emotional trauma to his family presents through time as the characters relive their conflicts time and time again through history in each new identity.

There is much to admire in Rose's writing. The language is evocative, drawing the reader to the past with ease, to the power of scent and it's role in memory and to the shadowy world of seances and ghostly presences. There is no doubt that the writing draws the reader into the story, building the tension as each new twist in the story seems to in turns ravel and unravel the threads in the story. The author must also be commended for not falling into the all too predictable trap of throwing in an obviously romantic conclusion. This doesn't mean that the ending isn't satisfying, because it is, but this is not a 'and they lived happily ever after kind of read'.

Having said that, there were threads that didn't feel fully developed to me, particularly in relation to the losses that Jac was trying to coming to terms with, and I would have liked to have more focus on the historical stories in particular.

If you enjoy a good thriller or like books that explore intellectual discussions of the paranormal realm with interesting historical settings, then this could be a book that you would enjoy. It wasn't a bad read for me, it just wasn't the book that I wanted to read right now. And I suspect that is actually a lot more about me than it was about the book!

Rating 3/5

Tour Details

Link to Tour Schedule:Link to Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #SeductionVirtualTour
M J Rose's website.
M J Rose on Facebook
M J Rose on Twitter.


From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Salon: April Reading Reflections

After missing Sunday Salon last week because I was away, I didn't yet get around to sharing my April reads, so that is what I am going to do this week.

Here's what I read during April:

A Trifle Dead by Livia Day 4/5
Private Practice by Samanthe Beck 4/5
Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra 3/5
1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham 4/5
Thank You for Riding by Meg Maguire 4/5
Ticket Home by Serena Bell 3.5/5
Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper by India Grey 4/5
From the Kitchen of Half Truths by Maria Goodin 4/5
Marital Bitch by J C Emery 2.5/5
Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener 4.5/5
Venetia by Georgette Heyer 4.5/5 (audiobook - relisten)
Stealing Picasso by Anson Cameron 2/5
The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles 4.5/5
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen 4/5
The Clover House by Henriette Laziridis Power 4/5
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 4.5/5 (audiobook)
Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton 4/5
Giving Chase by Lauren Dane 3/5
Saved by the Bride by Fiona Lowe 4/5
Real Men Don't Break Hearts by Coleen Kwan 4/5
Real Men Don't Quit by Coleen Kwan 4/5
Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards 4/5
The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand 4/5
Turning up the Heat by Laura Florand 4/5
Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich 3/5
The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty 4/5

Challenge Update

Australian Women Writers Challenge - A Trifle Dead, Tuscan Rose, Daughter of the Sky, Saved by the Bride, Real Men Don't Break Hearts, Real Men Don't Quit, The Hypnotist's Love Story

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - Tuscan Rose, Daughter of the Sky

Aussie Author Challenge - Stealing Picasso 

What's in a Name Challenge - Turning Up the Heat

Once Upon a Time - 1001 Nights of Snowfall, From the Kitchen of Half Truths

Currently Reading

Seduction by M J Rose, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto and listening to Paper Towns by John Green.

Up Next

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Roadtrip to Mildura

Last weekend I headed up to the town of Mildura, which is a regional city on the banks of the Murray River for a wedding. I had a fabulous time at the wedding (may have drunk a lot more than normal, but that's okay occasionally!) but I also enjoyed walking along the river and taking some photos.

On the road again

A welcome drink after a 7 hour drive.

The Murray River

Playing with the panorama setting on my phone

I spent a bit of time wandering around near Lock 11

The river gums

Trying unsuccessfully to get a picture of the cockatoos in flight

The view from the wharf on our morning walk

The view from the deck where we were staying
Early morning

The river at dusk - the view from the wedding reception venue

The river at dusk using the panorama setting

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce from At Home with Books

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Library Loot: May 8 to 14

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!'s pretty low key around here at the moment. This is the first time in years that I haven't posted for a week. Part of the reason is because I was away for the weekend, but that is only part of the reason. I seem to be in the midst of a blogging slump - the worst one for a couple of years! Hopefully things will get back to normal soon.

One thing that is still normal is my library visitations! Here's what I got last week:

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose McCall - We were talking about war books on #spbkchat a couple of weeks ago and this is one that was recommended.

Paper Towns by John Green - My next audiobook experience with John Green. I am just under half way through this and I am not quite sure I know what I think about it yet.

Claire has Mr Linky this week, so head over to share your loot links.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Library Loot: 1 to 6 May

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
I should have dated this Library Loot post from April 24 to May 6 because I never did quite get around to posting my loot from last week! It was nearly touch and go this week too because my boy is going off hiking tomorrow so we have been rushing around making sure everything is done ready to go. I am not sure how he will cope. They are really roughing it. No Ipad, no XBox - I expect it is going to be quite a shock to the system for him.

Anyway, here is what I did get over the last couple of weeks:

The Maiden by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - Next book in the Morland Dynasty saga

A Taste for It by Monica McInerney - This is one of Monica McInerney's earliest books . I am listening to it on audio - thought it would be safer than listening to some of her more emotionally involving books on audio. In other words, I was worried about sitting in the car crying my eyes out.

Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser - Picked this up because it had been listed for the Stella Prize award.

New Guinea Moon by Kate Constable - Can't remember why I picked up this one. Maybe just that the New Guinea reference intrigued me!

Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham - the next Fables graphic novel.

Taking Chase by Lauren Dane - The second book in the Chase Brothers series.

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan - I am not sure why I added this book to my library holds requests a couple of months ago, but the book finally came in.

What loot did you get this week? Share your Library Loot posts below: