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review 2019-03-15 17:07
Descendant of the Crane.... SOOO good!!
Descendant of the Crane - Joan He

This book exceeded any and all expectations I had before, during and after reading it!! I am absolutely floored by how quickly and completely it drew me in and ensnared me. If you're looking for a wild emotional rollercoaster ride with courtly intrigue and a gut punching plot? read on...


There were a slew of things going on simultaneously and almost nothing was as it seemed on the surface. It wasn't until the epilogue that I got the full breadth and scope of the book. There was a regicide trial. There was a war brewing. There was a budding/highly unlikely romance slowly percolating. There were magical people being persecuted and there were rampant duplicitous actions abound.


Our MC, Hesina, ascends the throne early on but who can she trust? Can she trust anyone? Can she even trust her fallible memories? She is young, malleable, impetuous, head strong, stubborn and a bit naive SO is she ready to rule? Is she ready to rule a country on the brink of war? With nefarious people and deeds amiss, can she navigate court and ferret out her father's murderer? I was swiftly swept up in the beauty of the writing, the plot, the world building and most of all the complex loveable/loatheable characters. There were twists and turns... even the turns had turns. I got to a point where I found myself saying (to myself) "I've read enough books in my life to see where this is going" I sat with a sneer on my face and then BAM!!! our MC was sitting in the dirt and the game totally changed. Not only didn't I see major plot twists ahead of time, I apparently had no idea what game was being played altogether. As you can imagine this left me wanting.. nay, needing more. I couldn't stop reading. I made excuses to hide away and read just a bit more. I waited in my daughter's car rider line, at school, an hour early just so I could continue reading. I read while the rest of the family watched t.v. together. I skipped meals and read through the dead of the night. I was addicted... in the best possible sense. I was a puppet on Joan He's strings and reacted just as she commanded. I loved then loathed then loved then felt conflicted right on cue... AND that ending... it slayed me!! I might have cried. Okay, I did cry but I dare you not to shed some (completely understandable) tears. I was swept up in all of the emotions. I am still reeling days after finishing the book. I let it sit and ruminate in my mind to see if the endorphin high would wear off but I am still just as touched and obsessed as when I read the very last word. I desperately wish I could start over again, naive to what lay ahead...experience this book anew. BUT alas...it will have to live on in my memories and of course in my favorites list.


Over all: I LOVED this book!! It deftly elicited all the Feels. It ran me through the gamut of emotions and surprised me at almost every turn. I did guess one twist but that seems paltry compared to how many there were that I failed to foresee. This is going straight to my favorites list and I will wait until the end of time for book #2!! If you're still reading this... what are you waiting for?? Go and pick this one up toot sweet!

~ Enjoy

*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***

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review 2019-01-27 11:31
Descendant of the Crane - Joan He
Descendant of the Crane - Joan He

At least this book managed to get me out of a slump of not being able to actually finish anything, even if my interest started to wane towards the end... I'm not sure if it's what I'm reading at the moment or more about me. 


Anyway, on to Descendant of the Crane, which had all the makings of a book I would really like and which mostly lived up to what I was expecting. The basic premise is that it's the start of a series and book 1 is all about the accession to the throne of Hesina on the sudden death of her father - she's convinced he was murdered and a good-sized section of the book deals with her investigations and the subsequent trial (including attempts by less savoury elements of the court to scapegoat someone they dislike). 


Our setting is a kingdom where a previous monarchy was overthrown by eleven rebels who then instituted a rule based on the Tenets they'd written, including institutionalised hatred and violence towards 'sooths' - people with powers around influencing the future, whose blood burns as a convenient way of identifying them. As a result, the sooths are now in hiding in Hesina's kingdom even as she's looking for a way to overturn the current system (while staying queen). One of the neighbouring kingdoms is enslaving the self-same sooths but using them as weapons, which only helps to inflame the hatred against them in Hesina's kingdom.


At the start of the book, Hesina has consulted one of the sooths herself even though this act is considered treasonous, and ends up recruiting a thief from the dungeons as her advocate and assistant throughout the court process. Akira naturally has a hidden history and all sorts of convenient skills which turn up when needed and Hesina just keeps pursuing him romantically even though he's consistently spurning her advances. Seriously, this sucks when the roles are reversed and is equally unappealing when it's this way around, one of the things I least liked about the book. 


At the end of the book, Hesina finds herself in hot water and someone within her family turns against her, to the point where she and Akira have to flee. What puzzled me was that the author then chooses to finish this particular part of the series with a chapter explaining why that person was not bad really and is actually working for Hesina's benefit in the long run. That would, to my mind, have worked much better as a reveal later on in the series.


There's a couple of bombshells dropped by the author along the way that tip this firmly into fantasy from mock-history, as it's revealed that certain individuals are actually functionally immortal - the search for this had been considered scandalous on the part of the previous regime, so it's passed over a bit more lightly than I'd expected. Maybe this will get picked up later on down the line?


So, in the end it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read and I'm mildly interested in where it'll go next but it will probably be one of those series I'll pick up via the library or if it's on sale. No pre-orders for this one, I'm afraid!


I received this book free from Netgalley and the publishers on the condition of giving an honest review. 

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review 2019-01-24 15:40
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a small book, only 224 pages, that packs an outsize punch. I can’t remember where I stumbled on it – if it was through blogging or goodreads, or just by following one of the bookish rabbit trails that I find myself chasing when I start looking at books. It’s set in Australia, written by an Australian writer, so it fulfills the category “Classic from Africa, Asia or Oceania” for my Back to the Classics Challenge.


It is set up as a mystery – in 1900, three girls from the Appleyard College for Young Ladies, Miranda, Marion and Irma, and one of their instructors, Miss McCraw, disappear on a Valentine’s Day picnic in the Australian countryside, at a place called Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock is a real place, a volcanic rock formation in central Victoria.



Picnic at Hanging Rock is not a true story, but Lindsey presents it as though it is, with newspaper clippings and other bits of ephemera that lend verisimilitude to the story. The book takes off from the disappearance, and follows the ramifications to the school, the headmistress, and the other students.


As the word of the disappearance leaks out, families begin to withdraw their daughters from the school, which leads to the school struggling to stay afloat and creates stress for the headmistress, Miss Appleyard. In addition, one of the girls, Sara, had been in trouble and was not allowed to go to the picnic and her mental health deteriorates rapidly. She disappears as well, although the mystery of her disappearance is solved. One of the girls, Irma, is found alive, but dehydrated and with no memory of what happened to her friends within a few days of the disappearance. She recovers, but is unable to describe or explain what has happened to her friends.


The story is intriguing as the members of the local community grapple with the events and try to understand what has happened. This is not a book that has a neat resolution. It’s not crime fiction, it’s not horror, it is mostly a slim narration of an unexplained, and inexplicable, event that is perfectly satisfied to leave questions unanswered.


Finishing it was, admittedly, a bit unsatisfying and frustrating. I began googling and found information in Wikipedia that suggested that there had been a final chapter that was left out of the book that contained the solution to the riddle. Having now read a summary of the chapter – and I would recommend waiting until after reading the book to do this – I agree with the publishers that the better decision was to leave the ending ambiguous. Because this is a story about what happens after, not what happened before, and it’s fully realized just taking it from that perspective.


The comparison to Shirley Jackson is not perfect, because Picnic at Hanging Rock lacks the undercurrent of dread that Jackson’s best novels, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, created so perfectly. But she’s probably the best comparison that I can come up with, because that sense of pervasive unease is present all through Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s a slim book, but is one worth reading.

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text 2019-01-12 02:19
Reading progress update: I've read 42 out of 198 pages.
Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

We have jumped right into the action! 3 girls disappear from a school picnic with no warning or explanation.

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review 2019-01-08 22:19
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken,Pat Marriott

I kept expecting the actual wolves to be a bigger part, like at some point all the grown-ups would be eaten by wolves and the children would be left alone. It felt like reading a Sherlock Holmes story a lot of the time (in a good way). I just wanted it to be a lot darker than it ended up being.


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