Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor returns with the sequel to the wonderful Strange the Dreamer with this gem!!!

If you haven’t read Strange the Dreamer yet, please do not read this review as it may contain spoilers…

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of. Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this great sequel to Strange the Dreamer!!!

I love this book so much. It’s absolutely everything I hoped for and much more. Laini Taylor weaves a magical story about love, found family and redemption. It has so many great themes and characters that have dimension. I am also really happy about the wonderful universe.
It’s amazing!!!

-NJ

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24 Panels – Comics Anthology

On June 2017, the Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-story tower block in West London.

24 PANELS is an anthology comic to support the PTSD needs of the survivors. Curated by KIERON GILLEN (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), it features 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels. Half drawn from professional creators who volunteered their time and half drawn from open submissions, 24 PANELS is about community, hope, and (most of all) raising as much money as possible…

As I was personally offered this comic anthology for review, I was very honoured and excited to take part due to the reason this comic was put together.  What a creative way to show solidarity and support in times of adversity…

This anthology has very impressive art work and short storylines – with some stories I wish they were a bit longer than it was, but they were great nonetheless.. It was difficult to choose a favourite but I really liked Bagan Burma 2040, a culturally infused Burmese comic, I also enjoyed Dream Job which was a choose your own adventure type comic and They Say which is an important story that demonstrates how everyone has their own story half the time things that are said about you may not be true as people really don’t truly know what happens behind the scenes – everyone is dealing with their own battles you don’t know about..

A great collection of comics, great illustrations, story lines – recommended to graphic novel and comics fans and it is available for purchase online – proceeds go to supporting those affected by the Grenfell fire in 2017.

Special thanks to co-author of Above the Grave Mitchell Hall for having me on board to read and review this wonderful comics anthology..

-Annie

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

“But even in difficult situations, especially in difficult situations, you can’t lose hope. Things change”

FANTASTIC BOOK!!! A story that had me hooked from the first page and I read it in a day..

Life is pretty ordinary for Amal and her village in Pakistan.. Amal is one of the select few girls who can read and write and has a love for poetry and she is busy pursuing her dream to be a teacher however her dreams are momentarily crushed when she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings as it is her duty as the eldest daughter. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope then the unthinkable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Although written for a middle grade audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this as an adult and believe other readers who dive into YA or MG would enjoy it just the same. With themes that cover gender equality, education and social justice, I truly believe this to be an important book for all readers. I love and adore our protagonist Amal and there were times I wished I could just hug her and commend her courage and strength. I really felt her pain and realised my own problems were so small compared to girls/women like Amal. Amal’s character, her journey and her story was so real, raw and honest. I felt her emotion, her confusion, her outrage even her tears whether happy or sad, she’s a character I really love. What resonated with me was the book’s underlying message – to never give up hope..

Honestly, this author Aisha is a true inspiration to me and I intend to continue to follow this path: “We don’t have to make headlines to help change the world for the better. Everything we do in our communities and beyond to impart good is important and matters.”

Special thanks to Text Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book – definitely one of my 2018 favourites!!
-Annie

Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life….

OK.. this book was epic!! Loved it from beginning to end!! I loved our protagonist: Emika (Emi) Chen… a teenage hacker who worked as a bounty hunter to track down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally… Warcross was an online, virtual reality game that took over the world and became a way of life.

I enjoyed Emi’s story – what her life was before she got to where she is now and particularly in the beginning, there was a lot of frustration she was feeling with her struggles. As a reader, you could feel her emotion and you were really with her when she was on her own trying to meet ends meet, plunging further and further into debt then her life suddenly changed… Being a bounty hunter was a competitive business, so in Emi’s desperate attempt to make quick money to pay immediate debts, she took a major risk by hacking into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships – the risk turned out to be life changing due to a glitch that exposed her to the world. As she was convinced this will result in incarceration, Emi was shocked to find that Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka calls her with a job proposition rather than an arrest warrant. From The U.S to Tokyo, overnight, Emi’s life will never be the same..

This book was such a page turner, I loved it from beginning to end. I loved Emi’s journey, her connection with Hideo Tanaka and the focus on the world building – imagine if VR/online gaming ruled the world? How far away are we from it now? What I also found very interesting was how this world that was owned by Henka Games and the elusive creator Hideo Tanaka even had legislation governing it!!! How it was unlawful to gamble on Warcross and bounty hunters are hired to detain hackers and illegal gamblers. I’m not much of a gamer myself but I really enjoyed this story and how it whisked me into such a unique world!!! The intricate details of virtual reality and gaming kept me hooked to the very end. I especially took a liking to Hideo Tanaka – what an intelligent her mysterious individual he is.. I was wrapped in this fast paced action packed story – and woah.. that twist towards the end!! [not saying any more] I’m going to get into the sequel, Wildcard sooner rather than later!!

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Wind Rider by P.C Cast Blog Tour + exclusive Q&A author P.C Cast

Best selling international author of the House of Night series and other titles, P.C. Cast is back as she brings us Wind Rider, the third installment of an epic fantasy series set in a world where humans, their animal allies, and the earth itself has been drastically changed. A world filled with beauty and danger and cruelty…

This is the third book of the Tales of New World…

Keep an eye out for the first 2 books in the series [pictured] if you haven’t started the series yet, definitely worth the read!!! …Naturally when at the beach, you take your books with you, yes??

Exclusive Q&A with P.C Cast..

G’day!! We just wanted to thank you for engaging with us as part of the blog tour, we are big fans of your books and we really hope you will visit us in Sydney, Australia one day soon!!
I WOULD LOVE TO!

You have written quite a few books! Is there a particular title or series that resonates most with you? Which one would it be and why?
That tends to change as I continue writing more and more series, but right now I’m especially attached to TALES OF A NEW WORLD.  WIND RIDER is the most difficult and best book I’ve written. I love the world – the characters – and the exploration of what embracing hate will do to a society, as well as the redemptive powers of love and what will happen when a group of people commit to living inclusively with truth and love leading the way.  AND THE DOGS AND HORSES AND LYNXES! Love, love, love the animal Companions!

You write a lot about goddesses, Is there a reason for this?
I’m Pagan, so it’s the foundation of my belief system. Also, I write female empowering stories set in matriarchal societies. Those societies rarely worship male deities. Additionally, I find the different faces of the Goddess inspiring and inclusive and, quite frankly, a lot more interesting to create than those that are patriarchal.

Some authors are either inspired by true life events or have dreams that inspire their writing, where do you find your inspiration and how do you apply it to your writing?
I’m usually inspired by research and by travel, but sometimes real life steps in – like for TALES OF A NEW WORLD. In that series my relationship with my personal protection canine, Badger, inspired the idea for the world and the animal Companions. And for the antagonist and villain I looked no further than the debacle going on in our government and country. When hate, racism and division take a lead role in a country there are a lot of villains from which to choose…

As an author that has focused on urban fantasy and paranormal romance books, you would be quite the expert in this area!! What do you think makes a good fantasy romance?
Ironically, good fantasy has to be founded in believability. If I’m going to take you on a journey where vampyres have elemental powers, or goddesses walk the earth, or humans and animals bond on a genetic level I have to first be sure my world building is solid. Do my ecosystems work? It’s also why I prefer to base my magic on the elements.  The character development is especially important in fantasies. If I’m going to create a God of Death or a villainess whose behaviour is sociopathic (Neferet!) then I must first create a fully fleshed out character my readers can understand and even one with whom they can empathize – and taking that a step further, all the great romances – in any genre – begin with believable characters.

As an author you would go through an extensive editing process before publication so we were just curious how different is the final story from your original idea or draft? Do you find the original idea is still quite clear in the final print and edits just help you shape the story or does it change direction to something completely different?
I do outline, but my work is very character driven. What that means for my books is that I begin with an opening scene and I also know the closing scene – how I get there usually changes drastically from my outline/proposal as my characters evolve and grow. I rewrite constantly, so by the time I finish a manuscript, even the first time around, it’s well beyond first draft status.

What was the best piece of advice you were given as an author and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?The best piece of advice I was ever given about being an author was something Teresa Miller, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Poets and Writers Assoc., said to me when I was taking one of her classes. She told me to treat the career of being an author as I would any job – basically to take off my rose-coloured glasses and educate myself about the process of publishing – to understand thoroughly how a manuscript turns into a book. I followed her advice and couldn’t be happier I did!

When you’re not writing – what would you be doing?
You mean other than feeling guilty I’m not writing? Hum…I hang out with my daughter, Kristin, and my absolutely perfect grandbaby a lot. I yoga. I ride my mare, Anjo (yes, the same as the one in WIND RIDER!). I love to try new restaurants with my awesome group of girlfriends (and a few guys, including my brothers). And I really love binging TV series.

Are you a reader? What’s your favourite book of all time? (Or a book that may have inspired you to start writing)
Of course I’m a reader! You guys know this question drives authors crazy, don’t you! So, I see you gave me an out. Whew. When I was thirteen I read DRAGON FLIGHT by Anne McCaffrey and I was gobsmacked (as my grandma would’ve said!) and mesmerized. A woman wrote a fantasy novel! And a girl was the star! The saviour! The coolest character! At that moment I knew I would someday be a published author who wrote fantasy novels starring strong women. Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for my livelihood!

Special thanks to P.C Cast for engaging with Read3r’z Re-Vu through our blog Q&A, to Aus YA Bloggers and Pan Macmillan Australia for having us on board as part of the Wind Rider Blog Tour!!

Content compiled by Annie, Q&A questions by Annie and NJ

Above the Grave (Graphic Novel) + Exclusive Blog Q&A with the artists/authors Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva

Rick Mastertine is having a bad first day on the job. He’s getting grief from his “customers”, staff and boss. His place of employment? He’s the new chief warden of Mako, the world’s super villain prison, located deep in the Namibian desert and converted from an old diamond mine.

Can Rick uncover the true secret of Mako, while preventing an ingenious jailbreak by the likes of the shape-shifting Mister Twister, luck manipulating Russian Roulette, sentient tree Davine and brilliant crocodile-man hybrid Crocitis?

Image from: Above the Grave

Blog Q&A Exclusive with artists/authors – Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva…

When did you both decide to co-write your comic book “Above the Grave” and how did you come to this decision?

M: I mentioned it to Andrew and at that stage had it as an issued comic mini-series. Andrew liked the idea of the story and expanded out the story and wrote it out in a Screenplay format.

A: This would have started about ten years ago. Mitchell has oodles of story ideas but there was something about this concept that really grabbed me, plus I thought the characters were fun and distinctive. It goes deeper than that though, as Mitchell established some themes that resonated with me. For example, at the time I was a supervisor and on one level Rick, as the warden, is a middle manager so I could identify with his issues working at Mako! The tone was also right up my alley, it’s really a big, brash action-comedy. I stayed true to those aspects while expanding the story with among other things Rick’s redemption arc and I introduced a few more characters to drive the expanded plot.

How do you structure the content, for example, does one write while the other illustrates and do you go through several drafts of writing and illustrations before you get to your finished product?

A: With the story, there was a baton passing from Mitchell to myself. Once I took the baton, I ensured I kept Mitchell’s authorial voice throughout the many subsequent drafts. Only once I thought the story was nailed down did I begin drawing because I knew it would be a lot of effort to redraw pages. However, I ended up redrawing about 40% of the panels anyway because this was the first comic I ever drew and I learned many lessons about comic storytelling as I went along! This, by the way, was only possible because I drew it digitally.

It looks like a lot of work went into “Above the Grave” was this a long journey just to put content together for publication?

M: Oh it was a LONG Journey. From concept to writing and Andrew learning on the job and drawing it at the same time took many years.

A: To be honest, at first I was too scared to want to draw it myself. I had always liked drawing but to bring this story to fruition, I was only too aware it meant I would have to draw many things I had never drawn before and the volume of drawings needed was going to be huge, something in the order of 500 panels. But thanks to Mitchell’s encouragement (and prodding), I took the plunge. It was really intimidating sitting with that first blank page in front of me on the drawing table knowing I had 136 pages to do. In fact, I might have even said to myself I’ll just do the first 20 then we’ll get someone else to do the rest. But you know what they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

After I finished drawing there was still the lettering to do! Not a glamorous part of creating comics, I can tell you.

Now that’s it’s done, we couldn’t be prouder.

What was the inspiration for the characters you use and the storyline in “Above the Grave”?

M: Inspiration came from seeing a prison line up of Villains in a Spiderman cartoon and hearing a radio news broadcast many years ago about the South African Government considering building an underground prison.

A: I’ve always liked reading the news and I know Mitchell is an avid book reader. Mitchell came up with some really bold concepts for characters and I filled in their back stories from things that floated around in my head. The references to Russia and North Korea for example. But they’re from years ago, it’s just that those countries have stayed topical. It’s true afterall that the more things change the more things stay the same. As for the character designs, that was nothing but hard work, lots of google picture searches and constant iteration. Especially Da Vine, I swear I will never draw another plant/human hybrid for the rest of my life!

What else do you have in the pipeline that us comic geeks can keep an eye out for? Is this a series by any chance?
M: While we have ideas for upcoming projects the focus right now is just letting people know about Above The Grave from conventions to getting the book into stores.

A: I’m going to work on some fan art of other popular properties to try to attract attention at cons. It’s hard trying to sell an original story.

Some illustrators really don’t enjoy drawing – especially as scenes can get repetitive, did you really enjoy writing/illustrating this comic book?

A: This is what I would say to people who are thinking of drawing a comic: If you do 100-odd pages you will find out just how much you really like drawing! Seriously, drawing a comic is nothing like drawing a pin-up or even other kinds of picture books. It’s fun but it is certainly repetitive and there are times when it feels like a horrible grind. The only thing that keeps you going is that promise of the finished product and getting your story out there. The other process I adhered to that made it easier for me to reach the finish line is that I made sure to keep up momentum and do all the pages, even if the art was terrible to begin with. Then I went back and improved them A LOT. Working that way, I knew I could have quit at any time and still had at least something in hand. As it turned out, I never quit because I saw constant improvement in myself that drove me to cut no corners and do every page to a high standard. I see no reason to be modest about this lol.

If you stumbled into writer’s block (or illustrator’s block) how did you overcome it?

M: For myself and very luckily never had an issue with writer’s block. Just going forward and focus on the next part of the story without getting too far ahead.

A: Luckily that was not an issue with this project. It was a miracle how it came together. Sometimes your brain’s neurons just work!

For those who are thinking to branch out into publishing comic books, what would your best piece of advice be?

M: It’s a hard journey, break things into small areas that you have to complete. I know for myself that it would of been such a harder journey if it didn’t find such a great collaborative partner. If i don’t cross paths with Andrew. Above the Grave doesn’t happen. PERIOD.

A: I would definitely advise any aspiring creators not to do 136 pages! The most important thing is to FINISH. If you just finish you will be ahead of 99.9% of other people. We all know about the proverbial screenplay sitting in a drawer. So choose a manageable story!

Getting to know you….

When you’re not writing/illustrating, what would you be doing?
M: Plotting ideas, playing guitar, game and watching television.

A: I was illustrating in most of my spare time for the duration of this project so I listened to a lot of podcasts. When I had forced breaks because I needed to recharge my drawing tablet I spent the time reading stories about all kinds of things online. Because the internet is random! You never know what will give you an idea later on down the line.

Who are your role models when it comes to your writing/illustrating journey?
M: Paul Hogan, John Cornell, Matthew Reilly and Kevin Smith.

A: Jim Lee for drawing. His longevity in the comics industry is astounding as well.

What are your favourite comic books? (graphic novels or manga included in this question)
M: Watchmen, Superman: Red Son, Guardian Devil (Daredevil)

A: For me it all began with Asterix and Tintin. (I actually homage the artist of Asterix, Albert Uderzo, with a character named after him in ATG.) Then in high school I loved the X-Men. Y: The Last Man opened my eyes to what’s possible in the medium as it’s not a humour or superhero story. I like Red Son as well.

Besides comic books, what is your favourite genre to read?
M: Music Biographies, True Crime, Horror, Self Help.

A: I don’t read many books these day but I like to read long-form journalism and sites like io9 for nerds. I used to read action adventure novels like James Bond and Jurassic Park. But I read more fact than fiction overall.

Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
M: San Diego during Comic con.

A: Disney World when the Star Wars hotel is completed in 2021!

If you had the power to adapt “Above the Grave” to a TV show, Stage Show or Movie, which would you choose and why?
M: …. Let’s go the movie! Let’s go HUGE! Lol

A: …. $200 million major motion picture! Actually, ATG began as a comic, then it was written as a screenplay for a reason that I forget, then it became a comic again. That’s why it’s 136 pages, it’s very cinematic for a comic.

Special thanks to Mitchell and Andrew for taking the time for our Blog Q&A and for also attending as our special guests for the Read3r’z Re-Vu Comics Day Exclusive… It’s so exciting to meet friends with hidden talents and amazing achievements!!! Hope to see more from you both in the future!!!

-Q&A and content compiled by Annie

The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly

BOOK 5 IN THE JACK WEST JR SERIES…

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE FOUR KINGDOMS SCORNED.
THE HUNT FOR JACK WEST JR HAS BEGUN.

A SHADOW WORLD BEHIND THE REAL WORLD

A WORLD WITH ITS OWN HISTORY, RULES AND PRISONS

THAT IS REACHING INTO OUR WORLD … EXPLOSIVELY

We are nearing the end of Matthew Reilly’s amazing septology, we have searched for and found the Seven ancient wonders and the Six sacred stones, discovered the identity of the Five  greatest warriors and fought the battle of all battles during the games of the four legendary kingdoms.

Now, having just arrived home in Australia’s vast outback, battle weary and scarred, all Jack West wants to do is rest and see his wife Zoe and spend time with his friends and family.

But merely three days later, Jack is woken by Zoe.
His new mate from the underworld- Hades, needs his help with the news that ” the world has gone to shit. ”
And so, the adventure and search for the Three secret cities and the three immortal weapons begins.
But Jack and his team are not the only ones searching..as, within the cities are the means for empowering the three weapons used to prevent the Omega event and prevent the worlds complete destruction. And, it is said, he who holds them all, rules the world.

Jack must find them first and prevent life on earth from being completely destroyed in the most unimaginable way.
So together, Jack and his team and his new mates, Hades and Iolanthe from the underworld race around the world in a desperate search for clues to the locations of the three secret cities whilst being terrorised by those who are fueled by greed. Already knowing the whereabouts of one weapon, their first stop is New York city.
For fans of Jack West – buckle up, grab a pillow to punch and some tissues…there will be destruction, there will be casualties – much loved characters will die.

Matthew Reilly doesn’t disappoint with this fast paced, action packed adventure- the fifth of his adventure septology. Loved it and if you haven’t already become addicted to Jack West’s adventures, do yourselves a favour and get reading. I couldn’t put much else without spoiling the plot for readers.  And MR fans hate spoilers…

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Kay