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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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

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

This was a book that lured me in and slowly seduced me with its intricate world building and immersive story line.

When a person in an honourable position suddenly dies under suspicious circumstances, you have 2 options – have an open investigation or engage in a covert operation to determine whether or not it was sinister.. Oh.. and you have one clue: poison.

A story of treachery and intrigue that is told in 2 perspectives; a reliable poison proofer and an unreliable understudy. Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. Jovan’s sister Kalina is the understudy. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry…

Besides the slowly developing story line and trying to determine “who done it” what I enjoyed the most was the imaginative composition of poisons we learn about in each description that started each chapter…

With a steady pace and development, this is a book that is recommended to those who love fantasy fiction and intricate world building.

-Annie

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken.
But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.
I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.

This is another book I will be adding to my shelf of “2018 book loves” although a book shelved in the Young Adult section, this is a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults and teens alike. I call this a culturally infused, intergalactic adventure that captivated me from page one right to the very end leaving me yearning for the next installment (whenever that is, as this was just released!)

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects as Amani is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death

I fell in love with the world it was set in, the map of all the planets that’s included in this book and I just loved the concept of a village girl being kidnapped to be a stand in body double for a cruel throne. The plot was really fast paced and exhilarating, I found I read this book in just a couple of days. The characters in this book are amazing. Interestingly, the emotional confusion some of the characters felt made me as a reader question how I felt about certain characters too. The cultural references and metaphors used throughout the story was something I was able to relate to and understand which was pretty cool. The twists throughout the book made me gasp, even cringe.

This is a 10/10 debut novel. I definitely recommend this to readers who love fantasy fiction or intergalactic adventure – cultural infusion is an added bonus.

Brilliant.. Unique.. and so many other awesome things I have run out of adjectives for.. please read this!!

Special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra + Blog Post feature from the author!!!

An epic combination of mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that captivates you from page one and hooks you to the final page!!!

Our protagonist is Hayden, a young girl who has tried to put her past behind her. She’s living in Brooklyn with her best friend, Del and preparing for her future however on her 18th birthday she inherits her childhood home, The Manor, based in Colorado on the condition that she uncovers its dark secrets. Hayden’s inheritance has opened Pandora’s box as her past has suddenly caught up with her, especially when she goes back to her roots…

I first heard about this book when Publishing House Allen and Unwin hosted their YA Fan Fest and to my delight, I won a copy after participating in one of their activities on stage!! For this, I am forever grateful as this was one creepily, exciting book!!! Where to start? Yes I really enjoyed this book.. What I enjoyed most was the element of mystery that teased me throughout the story – from the beginning I knew and understood that Hayden, was given a task to unlock a dark secret – but what was that secret!? Was it real or a fantasy?? What really happened to Hayden’s mother?? The closer we got to the truth, the creepier the story got – parts of the story even gave me goosebumps (no spoilers – The Manor) I also loved Hayden’s father – a disgraced physicist – who was a mystery himself with his theories we get to read in several of his journal extracts that surfaced throughout the book. Each entry started piecing more jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Even with that underlying mystery, I found the plot to be fast paced and very cleverly written. The author did a great job with starting chapters with text book explanations on various topics like physics for example and it lead us to the next part of the story. The friendship between Hayden and her bestie, Del, would appear to be the most unlikely yet they fit together like a glove and their constant banter made me laugh a lot so I guess it’s true, opposites do attract!!

This is a great debut novel and I recommend this to readers who enjoy a creepy YA fantasy fiction story.. It’s epic!!! Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book.

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Special feature – blog post by author Katya de Becerra

Setting the Scene: Writing Places into Books and Books into Place

I first read The Catcher in the Rye when I was about thirteen. Though I didn’t get to see New York with my own eyes until many years later, Salinger’s version of the city as seen through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, enthralled me well into my adulthood. Even when I got to visit New York at last, my firsthand impressions of it were tinged by my long-ago memories of first exploring the city on The Catcher’s pages.

As I’ve read more, it became obvious to me that regardless of whether a story is set in a real or fictional place, its setting is as important as the novel’s plot or characters’ development. Sometimes, the aftertaste of a written place stays with you longer than the story itself.

Looking back at how those early literary experiences from my childhood shaped me as a writer today, I can testify that The Catcher’s version of NYC has definitely burrowed itself so deep into my psyche that when I first started drafting what was to become my debut novel, What The Woods Keep, the setting my mind first conjured was, unsurprisingly, New York. Though, as my work progressed and the book’s protagonist, Hayden, revealed herself to me slowly and layer by layer, I understood one of the first key things about this strange story of missing mothers and crackpot scientist fathers I was writing: Hayden was not a native New Yorker. She was a transplant. And while she was well-adjusted to city life, originally she was from elsewhere. More so, she was hiding something, and her New York life was her armour, protecting her from the ghosts of her strange childhood.

But where did she come from? It was the process of answering this question that became crucial to Hayden’s development as the book’s lead character and narrator. The more I fleshed out her place of birth, a fictional town of Promise located in the middle of Colorado woods, the more I fleshed out Hayden herself. For it is in Promise that Hayden’s core was formed once upon a time, long before she came to New York. In its essence, What The Woods Keep is a story of one strange girl’s quest to unearth the truth about her mother’s decade-old disappearance. When Hayden returns to Promise, her faded memories of some disturbing happenings she’s witnessed in the local woods as a child, her dark dreams, and all these things she believes her mind surely made up begin to clash with the atmospheric reality of Promise, eventually spilling into her wakeful world. That moment when the town finally aligns with Hayden’s viewpoint and highjacks her perception was among most thrilling for me to write.

Books settings can profoundly affect us, shape our vision of places we’ve never visited, direct our reading choices and influence our travel aspirations. Just like The Catcher in the Rye was the key catalyst for my long-lasting obsession with New York, I hope that Promise from What The Woods Keep takes hold of my readers’ imagination. I hope that my readers feel the whisper of the woods on their skin and shiver. I hope that Promise, with all its moodiness, its rain and wind, and its unsettling secrets inspires readers to immerse themselves in books and explore places, real or imaginary.

Author Katya de Becerra

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book and for having author Katya, share her blog piece with us.

Blog post review by Annie

Longbourn: Dragon Entail: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace

This is the sequel to Book 1: Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon

In this story, Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only Elizabeth Bennet’s notes offer him any help. Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal… or so they thought..

Dragons.. Dragons and more Dragons..

Misunderstandings got cleared up – Collins got threatened by quite a few dragons in “Longbourn: Dragon Entail”. I am so hoping that they follow through in the next book. Collins is still a massive pain in the arse – please let him get eaten.

Meanwhile, Pemberley is growing up, she’s even started throwing a couple of tantrums.

A great Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern.  A must read for fans of Pride and Prejudice and those who love alternate stories and retellings..

-Meredith